La Liga Roundtable Discussion: Who Will Win El Clasico?, Falcao, Malaga, & More
Welcome to the second edition of Bleacher Report's newest series focusing on all the majors events in La Liga.
We have compiled BR's top Spanish football writers for a roundtable discussion that will covers various topics changing from week to week.
The topics will range from important matches in a certain week to overarching questions from this season. We will look at individual teams as well as the league as a whole.
We intend on tackling perhaps the biggest, most pressing questions about the league.
Some of the topics discussed today include:
Radamel Falcao: Pichichi bound?
Surprises in La Liga
And the question most of us are wondering: Who is going to win El Clásico?
First, introductions are in order. Here are the columnists who will partake in this series:
Roberto Alvarez-Galloso is one of Bleacher Report's writers for FC Barcelona, La Liga, and the Spanish National Football Team. He has a Spanish Language Video Blog called Socka Zone which deals mainly with FC Barcelona.
Xoel Cárdenas is considered “The Voice of FC Barcelona” on Bleacher Report. He is also the lead La Liga BBVA writer for Football.com, launching globally in mid-October.
Michael Cerna is BR's leading Columnist for La Liga and Spanish football. He also writes for Inside Spanish Football and Goal.com International.
Imala Weligamage is an Writer/Analyst for BR who focuses on Real Madrid as well as the New England Patriots.
Did the ref cost Sevilla against Barcelona?
Matthew—It's impossible to tell how the game would have gone, but I would say that Sevilla most likely would have won without the red card.
Imala—Simply put, the referee’s didn’t give Barcelona the game, Sevilla lost it.
Michael—No, it did not. The Medel red card was harsh and certainly impacted the outcome, but given the recent comebacks by La Blaugrana and their never-say-die attitude, it would be unfair to say they ONLY won because of those calls.
Roberto—No. The ref favored Sevilla over Barcelona. There were five incidents that deserved a red and only one received it. There was hitting, attempts to place an arm around the neck, and elbowing.
Thomas—Fabregas reacted really poorly to the incident, but the referee had little choice. I believe Sevilla would have won the match if they had all 11 players on the pitch.
Xoel—No. As I mentioned in my editorial about the game,yes, Sevilla deserved more, but in football, it’s not what you deserve, it’s what you take. And FC Barcelona took the win from Sevilla and earned it via two non-controversial, hard-fought goals in the last minutes of the game.
Can Falcao win the Pichichi?
Thomas—Yes he can challenge because right now he’s proving he can keep pace with the other two front-runners. Falcao might run into a small dry spell, but so might Messi and Ronaldo.
Michael—Absolutely. He has great teammates to feed him, he is the best pure striker in football and he has a tremendous instinct for finding the net. It will come down to health and the form of Atletico's midfield. If they can stay fit and continue to give him so many chances, he will hold his own against the two best players in the world.
Xoel—Um, yeah, NO. Next question.
Imala—In my opinion, Radamel Falcao is not only the best striker in Spain, but the best striker in all of Europe, but he will not win the Pichichi. While Falcao and Atletico have enjoyed a great start to the season, the odds of them maintaining such a good start are slim, and as their form deteriorates, Falcao’s scoring opportunities should decrease as well.
Matthew—Yes he can, but it's a tough mountain to climb. Falcao is currently the best pure striker in the world without a shadow of a doubt, but being in the same league as Messi and Ronaldo will make winning the Pichichi very difficult.
Who has been the biggest surprise so far this season?
Roberto—Atletico Madrid and Radamel Falcao. They have been able to rise within La Liga and shock the duopoly of Madrid and Barcelona. I would not be surprised if Atletico Madrid were to arrive at first place in La Liga if they continue their present course.
Matthew—For me, the biggest surprise has been Malaga. To put it bluntly, I have not expected them to do this well after losing (Santi) Cazorla. However, they have been in excellent form not only in La Liga, but in the Champions League as well. Malaga needs to hang onto Isco at all costs.
Thomas—Malaga, certainly. It would have been easy for them to accept their fate as just another team in La Liga, following the financial disappointments of the past summer. But their response is a great indication of the manager Manuel Pellegrini's quality.
Imala—The most surprising team in La Liga has been Real Madrid, for all the wrong reasons. After ending Barcelona's dominance in La Liga last season, Madrid looked even better coming into this season with the purchase of star midfielder Luka Modric. Lackadaisical, lethargic and uninterested were all adjectives used to describe Madrid at the start of the season. Things seem to be turning around for Madrid, but their start to the season was incredibly surprising especially considering Jose Mourinho's reputation as a fast starter.
Xoel—Má-la-ga! Like Matthew said, I really thought this team would sink after losing Santi Cazorla to Arsenal. But "el ingeniero" Pellegrini has done arguably the best coaching job of any coach in any European league this season with what he has done with Málaga.
Michael—Espanyol, unfortunately. What a train wreck, and poor officiating only accounts for so much. This is a team that has lots of great talent throughout the roster and came into the season targeting European football via a top-six finish. Now, they're in dead last with just a single point won so far.
Who is going to win EL Clásico, and why?
Roberto—FC Barcelona is expected to win El Clasico. While they barely survived the challenge against Sevilla, Barca is better organized and more consistent than Real Madrid when it wants to be. Real Madrid remains affected by internal strife with Ronaldo [although that is resolving itself] and Sergio Ramos.
Again, FC Barcelona will probably win against Real Madrid after a tough fight.
FC Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid
Imala—The winner of the upcoming El Clasico will be Real Madrid for one simple reason. It is a must-win for Jose Mourinho’s men. Madrid have already shown they are capable of going into the Nou Camp and beating Barcelona, and with their backs against the wall, I believe we will see a repeat of last season’s clash in which Ronaldo hit the winner.
Matthew—I tip this Clasico to go to Real Madrid. Barcelona's defense is still shaky even with Puyol returning from injury, and Andres Iniesta might not be at full fitness either. Real Madrid also appears to be hitting their stride and seems to have collected themselves after a disappointing start to the season. But this is a Clasico at Camp Nou...anything can happen.
Thomas—If Real Madrid are in the mood—and they should be—then Cristiano Ronaldo should have a field day against the weakened Barcelona defence. Barcelona are not playing with genuine centre-backs, while even the presence of Gerard Pique has not made the team look wholly convincing.
The venue of the match really doesn’t give much away. Madrid won at the Nou Camp last season but Barcelona are showing real fighting quality this season. Maybe It’s just easiest to sit on the fence for this one.
Michael—In terms of form, neither team is really carrying a lot of momentum. Neither team has hit their stride yet, and both have loads of players still dragging them down, but Barcelona have gotten the results. The Catalans are coming in on an emotional high after winning yet another close one in the dying minutes. Real Madrid will come in feeling confident after embarrassing a poor Deportivo side.
I see it coming down to which defense is tightest after the hour mark, and that swings the game in Real Madrid's favor. I expect a great Clasico this weekend.
Xoel—I see Real Madrid starting off strong in the first half like they did in last year's Clásico at the Camp Nou. The major concern for Culés is the defense. If Real starts slow like they did against Sevilla, Getafe, and Valencia earlier this season, Jose Mourinho's team is done!
Barcelona are a second-half team and will pounce on Real if they are not up by halftime.
I'll preview this game later this week, so I defer giving out a score...but you can guess who I think is going to win this Clásico.
Now what we would all love is to hear from you readers and fans of La Liga.
Please feel free to respond to these questions yourself and express any disagreements with any statements made from the writers.
Let us know what you think about the Sevilla/Barça controversy, Falcao's Pichichi chances, the biggest surprise in La Liga this season, and of course, who will win El Clásico this weekend and why?
Remember, please respectfully comment.
Thank you all for taking the time to read and join in on our discussion.
We hope you'll all become active participants in these roundtable sessions and welcome all views and opinions.
¡Y que viva La Liga!