Sleeping giants (defensively speaking)

Put Spanish giants into google and 8 of the first 10 posts refer to the football teams. One lists the translation and just one refers to the Gigantes, which are the amazing figures made for many of the festivals around Spain.

In the last 2 rounds of the Champions League Barca have needed a late goal to snatch a win against Celtic and then been beaten 2-1 at Parkhead. Real Madrid have taken just 1 point from a possible 6, albeit against a genuine Champions League contender. We’ve had 4 group games in the Champions League and 11 league matches so I thought it might be worth looking at their performance. I have chosen just to look at goals scored and goals conceded. They win so many matches in the league it is pointless looking at their performance there really.

Looking at goals scored below we see that in the Champions League Real Madrid have scored the same as at this stage last year. Both have scored 8 goals but last year Barca were already on 13 at this stage. In the league Barca have wracked up a crazy 36 goals already and they were on 34 at the same stage last season. Madrid had scored 43 at this stage last season and now are on a paltry 27!

Goals scored by Real Madrid and Barcelona this year compared to last season.

Now let’s look at goals conceded and there are some bigger differences. Last season in the Champions League Madrid’s defence was tighter than a gnats you know what and they had not leaked a goal after 4 games although Lyon, Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb were their opponents last year and I don’t think the Champions League has ever seen a tougher group than they are in now. Barcelona probably have a slightly tougher group than last time but still letting in 5 goals in 4 games against Celtic (2 matches),  Spartak Moscow and Benfica is not great. IN the group only Spartak Moscow have conceded more goals than them.

If we look at the keague then Madrid are in exactly the same place as they were last season letting in 8 goals in 11 games. The Barcelona difference is significant here as they have let in 14 goals in 11 games compared to just 6 goals last season. They surely can’t continue like this as you can’t always outscore the opponents. They have conceded 2 or more goals in 4 of their last 6 matches. Figures like that become hard to shift and when the confidence goes at the back things will get more nervy. Osasuna are bottom of the league and have conceded just one goal more than Barca!

Goals conceded (correctly spelt unlike the title) by Real Madrid and Barcelona for last season compared to this.

In terms of betting is there anyway we can profit from this? Possibly lay Barcelona at various points in a match and look to trade out if they let in a goal? Back over 2.5 or 3.5 goals etc as if they are conceding as well as scoring then this becomes far more likely. 8 of the 11 matches have featured 4 or more goals.

Xavi – The real Ballon D’or?

When Messi won the Ballon D’or for the third time last week he dedicated it to Xavi and in my opinion rightly so. When I came to Spain 6 years ago I thought Xavi was overated and slowed down all the Barcelona attacks. I couldn’t have been more wrong and much as I dislike Barça I love to see him play.

His achievements over the past few years have been staggering. Puyol and Iniesta have done the same but Xavi is always there and has not had the injuries of the other two and maintained his consistency. Reak Madrid won the league in the 2007-08 season but once that ended this is what he has achieved in the past 3 years:

European Champions (Spain) 08

Spanish League 08/09

Spanish Cup 08/09

Champions League 08/09

FIFA Club World Cup 09

Spanish League 09/10

World Cup (Spain) 10

Spanish League 10/11

Champions League 10/11

FIFA World Club Cup 11

He is rarely injured and for all the hype about Leo Messi he was poor in the world cup. He did have an incompetent manager but Xavi did the same job for Spain as he does for his club and led them to the title. His consistency has to be applauded and it’s a shame he probably just missed out on the last chance he had of getting the recognition he deserves. He turns 32 this month and the demands of the modern game mean he might have 2 or 3 more seasons left. People may argue he can play on like Giggs has but Giggs has been used sparingly by Ferguson and Xavi needs to be in the centre of the pitch controlling all the action.

I wrote an article for the Betting School last month and came across some interesting stats as I was looking at how teams perform when certain players play. The information I found persuaded me to write this post as last seasonXavi started in 15 Barcelona home matches and they won every single one. He missed 4 games and they won 1 of those but also drew with Real Mallorca and Deportivo, who were relegated and also lost to Hercules who also went down. So 45 points from a possible 45 when he started and 5 from a possible 12 when he didn’t.

His record was not so good oustanding when Barça were away from home but I think those home stats show his true worth. I think the achievements Xavi has made with Spain and Barcelona make him the real star of the last few years. It’s a shame he gets on his high horse about the way Barça play but when he’s gone they will miss the true conductor and I believe in the next couple of years will need to find a new style as without Xavi the tiki-taka will not be the same.