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This week’s main report takes a look at this season’s Spanish League: La Liga 2011-12. This report has a transcript below and explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post, while other key phrases (in blue) also have meanings explained. There is also a worksheet with answers.
When Sevilla’s president Jose Maria Del Nido recently claimed that La Liga was “…not just the biggest joke in Europe, but in the world. It is a third-world league in which two clubs take the others’ television money,” many found it hard to disagree with him. After all no other club apart from the ‘Big Two‘ have won the league in the past seven seasons with Barcelona winning five of those titles. To underline their dominance the current holders of both the Spanish and European titles, Barcelona then went out and bought one of the most coveted players in Europe – Alexis Sanchez – as well as Cesc Fabregas. Del Nido’s claim may be a little exaggerated but when both Barca and Real hammered their opponents on day one of the league few saw any other challengers for La Liga’s crown this season. But things may be changing and this year’s title race may be one of the most exciting in recent times.
Of course it will be a huge surprise if neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid lift the league trophy in May. Barcelona have the same core of players that saw them run away with last season’s championship – and the Champions League, while the strength of Madrid’s side can be seen from the fact that Brazilian star Kaka is still not guaranteed a starting place. Madrid have bought Portuguese full back Contrao from Benfica and two Turkish players: experienced international Altintop and new rising star Sahin – interestingly Madrid have spent the same amount as their Catalan rivals: 55 million Euros. The goal race between Ronaldo and Messi is sure to continue as will the bad blood between the two coaches – it seems that Mourinho is determined to try and get under the skin of the seemingly unflappable Pep Guardiola.
Champions League Spots
If the top two in Spain rarely changes the same could be said about the teams fighting for Champions League places: Valencia, Sevilla, Villareal and possibly Atlético Madrid. Fans of Atlético are well used to that word ‘possibly’. They are also used to spending large sums of money and this year is no different – they have spent over 65 million Euros with 40 million of that sum going on Colombian striker Falcao from FC Porto. They have started reasonably well but it will be interesting to see whether the large turnover in playing staff will affect their title or Champions League hopes. Valencia finished third last season and are tipped to do the same again though they currently top the table after four matches and have just held Barca to a 2-2 draw. There is optimism building around The Mestalla especially as the club have signed eight new players including young sensation Sergio Canales from Real Madrid on loan – it will be interesting to see how he combines with Argentinian playmaker Benega. Del Nido’s Sevilla will also be in the hunt for Champions League places but they will face a severe test from their Andalucian rivals Málaga. That’s right, Málaga. This is a side that has never won a La Liga title and in fact has never even really come close but thanks to huge investment from Qatari Sheikh Al Thani there is a new optimism around the south coast club. This summer they have spent a remarkable 58 million Euros – an unthinkable sum for a club that not too long ago was in Tercera and in huge debt. The players that have been brought in are all top quality with lots of experience – Dutch internationals Mathijsen and Van Nistleroy, Frenchman Toulalan, Argentinian player Buonanotte and Spanish international Santi Cazorla for a whopping 20 million Euros. The Boquerones – that’s Málaga’s nickname – have won three in a row and currently lie in second place – nevermind the Champions League could they even battle for the title?
Everyone’s tip to go down before the season started was Granada who were playing in the top flight for the first time in 35 years. They have brought in a huge number of players – mostly on loan – to help them beat the drop but it would be a miracle if they managed to do so. Another newcomer to the league this year is Madrid side Rayo Vallecano and they, like their near neighbours Getafe, will also struggle. Last season Mallorca stayed up by the skin of their teeth but I don’t think they will be so lucky this time round, particularly as manager Michael Laudrup is already under pressure so early in the season, while financially they are in big trouble, so it looks like La Segunda awaits Granada, Mallorca and Rayo. Champions will be Barcelona again with Real Madrid in second place – though do not be surprised if Jose Mourinho does not make it to the end of the season. The other two Champions League places will go to Valencia and Málaga. Frente Boqueron!
Big Two: Here it refers to Real Madrid and Barcelona
To underline their dominance: To demonstrate or prove their strength
coveted: Desired, wanted
hammered their opponent: Thrashed the other team, beat the other team easily
the same core of players: The same group of players
run away with last season’s championship: The club (Barcelona) won the title easily
the bad blood: Bad feeling
get under the skin of: To annoy, to make someone react angrily
unflappable: Cool, never appears to be under pressure
large sums: Lots of, big amounts of
the large turnover in playing staff: Many players have been bought and sold at the club
The Mestalla: The home stadium of Valencia FC
on loan: To borrow a player for a short time (To be on loan)
be in the hunt for: To be in with a chance
an unthinkable sum: A huge amount of money
Tercera: The third division in Spain (regional league)
whopping: A huge amount of money
Boquerones: The nickname of Málaga
tip to go down: Prediction to be relegated to the second division
beat the drop: To avoid relegation, to survive
by the skin of their teeth: Just about, a really, really close affair
La Segunda: The Second Division in Spain