Los Tres: No Ronaldo, no form and perhaps no future for Lopetegui?


Los Tres: No Ronaldo, no form and perhaps no future for Lopetegui?

by Paul Cox

Halfway through the group phase of the Champions League, that is. In La Liga, we still have over 75% of the season left to go.

But in both competitions, we have learned a few things about the Spanish sides.

In the Champions League, we learned:

  • Atletico and Barca are looking like they should cruise through to the knockout phase. Barcelona sit first in their group with a perfect 3-0 record, even beating Inter Milan without too much trouble despite missing Messi (who’s out for a month with a broken arm- the club hope he can return in time for a Nov 24 matchup with Atleti). Atleti are second behind Dortmund on six points, but with a five point lead over Monaco and Brugge, they’re feeling secure.
  • Real Madrid’s struggles, on the other hand, continue to make them ripe for more upsets. They’re on six points, tied with Roma for the lead in their group, but CSKA Moscow sit in second with four points. This might be a heck of a group to watch in the second half of group phase.
  • Valencia just cannot buy luck. They’re not out of it entirely; normally sitting in third in a group with just two points would be very bad news, but (luckily, I suppose) they are in a group with Manchester United, who are apparently on the accelerated schedule with the typical Mourinho third-season train wreck happening a year earlier than normal.

In La Liga, we learned:

  • As Los Tres has been known to rant about, the “minnows” of La Liga are not so weak as we often think. Real Madrid got knocked off by Levante last weekend; Jose Morales has been superb this season for the Valencian side and there are growing calls (of varying levels of seriousness) for the Spanish national team to call him in for the next round of League of Nations matches in November (in Croatia and then hosting Bosnia and Herzegovina).
  • Several clubs feel they could win- while Barcelona helped themselves immensely with a win vs Sevilla, they still have Espanyol, Alaves (!), Sevilla, Atletico, and Valladolid (!) behind them and within three points.
  • The middle pack clubs have to be feeling desperate for wins. Nine sides are crammed into the pack sitting on 12, 11, 10 or nine points; whoever manages to rack up two or three wins in the next three to five games will make huge strides towards separating themselves from that pack.

This weekend, of course, sees El Classico in Barcelona. This should be an interesting Clasico, though.

It’s the first in 11 years that didn’t feature Messi or Ronaldo. Barcelona have seemingly gone further in trying to get younger players in and prep for a post-Messi future that isn’t an apocalyptic wasteland. Real, on the other hand, seem to be ready to have a fire sale of old guys and reload – someday, but not right now.

Bonus Tres to watch this weekend:

    • Will Dembele play? He seems to be falling out of favor with Valverde.
    • Can Bale step up? Los Tres is a big fan of the Welshman, but the reality is that he has not assumed the mantle of the new Big Man for the Madrilenos.
    • Does Lopetegui escape the hot seat? After last weekend’s embarrassing loss at the Bernabeu to Levante, calls for his firing immediately popped up. A good showing against Barcelona would help secure his spot for at least a few more weeks.

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