2012 German Bundesliga Best XI

At the end of the day, a standard of a league comes down to it’s star players, the ones that really define the style of play and create the league’s greatest moments. La Liga has Messi, Ronaldo, and Sergio Ramos. The Premier League has Van Persie, Rooney and Kompany.

The Bundesliga is also very much at the level of Spain’s and England’s elite leagues. But who are the best Bundesliga stars? Here’s my Bundesliga team to rival the best from all around the world.

Goalkeeper – Manuel Neuer

Manuel Neuer

Bayern Munich’s big German stopper has a claim to be the best keeper in the world. His shot stopping is tremendous and it is rare that the ball goes past him without it being a quite spectacular goal.

Right Back – Lukasz Piszczek

Dortmund’s Polish right back impressed me particularly with his impressive performances for his country at Euro 2012, and his performances at Dortmund over the last year have been even more sensational. A marauding right back who can make goals and stop them, he would fall straight into most La Liga and Premier League sides.

Center Back – Mat Hummels

This is possibly one of the easiest choices to make. Hummels is one of the most exciting defensive prospects in the world at the moment. Big teams will certainly have their eye on this man.

Center Back – Benedikt Howedes

Howedes is an underrated defender. Big and strong, Schalke’s main man at the back was one of the reasons they have been so impressive in the Champions League this season.

Left Back – Philip Lahm

Another easy choice. Lahm has been top of the full back game for many years now, and whether he’s in Bayern Munich colors or German national team colors, the versatile full back always comes good when needed.

Defensive Midfield – Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bastian Schweinsteiger

It doesn’t matter where this German midfielder is playing, he always runs the game. His composure on the ball and range of passing make him a valuable asset to Bayern and Germany.

Central Midfield – Rafael Van Der Vaart

Having only recently moved back to Germany from the Premier League, Van Der Vaart is still readjusting to life back in the country’s top division. His playmaking skills and powerful shots have already proved valuable this year, with the Dutchman scoring some impressive goals in the process.

Center Midfield – Juan Arango

This final central midfield spot was incredibly difficult to call. Gotze, Kroos and many more could have gone into this slot, but from what I’ve seen of Juan Arango this year, he is placed into the squad on a sort of wildcard calling. Gotze and Kroos may be better overall players, younger and more exciting, but Arango’s range of passing and incredible technique is undeniable. His shooting powers are second to none, with him scoring some quite sensational goals this year. All of the central three in the midfield have the ability to blast the ball in from range or pick a fantastic pass, making this team very dangerous when the midfield moves forward.

Right Winger – Arjen Robben

The Bayern Munich and Holland winger has been criticised for being a bit of a diver over his career, but without his injury problems I truly believe he’d be up there with Messi and Ronaldo. A dazzling left foot combined with amazing pace and dribbling skill makes him a defender’s worst nightmare.

Left Winger – Frank Ribery

Ribery is the other Bayern Munich winger and has similar traits to Robben. The Frenchman’s lightning pace and dangerous right foot make him a problem for left backs all around the world.

Striker – Klaas Jan Huntelaar

Klaas Jan Huntelaar

This was the hardest pick of all of the positions: Huntelaar or Lewandowski. I chose Huntelaar because of his tremendous season last campaign. 48 goals during the previous season was a tremendously impressive record and his competition for the starting striker spot in the Dutch team with Robin Van Persie is tantalising to watch.

Other names I wish I could include:

  1. Mario Gomez
  2. Thomas Muller
  3. Robert Lewandowski
  4. Marco Reus
  5. Toni Kroos
  6. Mario Gotze
  7. Mario Mandzukic
  8. Jefferson Farfan
  9. Neven Subotic

I hope you enjoyed my article on FutbolPulse! Check out my football blog Rematch of the Day and follow me on twitter @rematchoftheday.

The Bundesliga’s Assault on La Liga and the Premier League

After the big debate about FIFA’s Team of the year, and how it was a disgrace that there were only La Liga players and that the Premier League should definitely have featured some of their own, many people started to draw up Premier League elevens or world elevens that could challenge FIFA’s choice.

BundesligaFair enough, I do believe there should be both Premier League and La Liga players in that team, but no one seems to have spared a thought for the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is possibly one of the most up and coming leagues in modern-day football, and in terms of stadia, fans and match day experience, the top German division can certainly challenge the Spanish and English top leagues.

The question about the Bundesliga has always been the quality of football and players, but I don’t think this is a problem anymore. There is a definite case for a couple of the best Bundesliga players being in the FIFA team of the year, and I believe a Bundesliga eleven would certainly be able to challenge any La Liga or Premiership eleven you could pick.

Over the past few years, the quality of German football has improved from just an organised defense and hard-working team that grounded out 1-0 or 2-1 victories to a league that feature seriously impressive football.

Indeed, this is typified by the German national team’s performance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where a young team containing the likes of Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, and Thomas Muller played attractive football and were one of the most exciting squads in the tournament. The quality of the national team has received international acclaim, with players who impress in the German set up, such as Mesut Ozil, gaining moves to high-class teams such as Real Madrid.

The improved quality of the national team has been reflected in the improved quality of the national league. Dominated primarily by Bayern Munich and Borrusia Dortmund, the Bundesliga possesses several top quality sides and many, many top quality players.

Bayern MunichIndeed, over the last three years, Bayern have been in the Champions League final more times than Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, and other top sides. Earlier this year, Germany’s other big team, Borrusia Dortmund, finished on top of a Champions League group that contained Real Madrid, Man City, and Ajax, proving that it is not only Bayern Munich that can call themselves a truly world-class German team.

In recent years, many top players have left Germany for the ‘grander’ leagues, with the likes of Sami Khedira, Nuri Sahin, Mesut Ozil, and Lukas Podolski moving to either La Liga or Premiership teams.

I question why La Liga and the Premiership are held in such higher regard than the Bundesliga. I watch a fair chunk of Bundesliga football on ESPN and know that the standard of play is highly impressive.

Admittedly, there are no teams in Germany that rival the likes of Barcelona, but over the whole league, there is a wealth of good quality football on show. Indeed, I believe if you look at some of the teams in the bottom half of each of the respective tables and compared them against each other, the Bundesliga would far outstrip La Liga in terms of quality and could give the Premier League a run for it’s money.

I hope you enjoyed my article on FutbolPulse! Check out my football blog Rematch of the Day and follow me on twitter @rematchoftheday.

Real Sociedad 3-2 Barcelona: Red Card and Own Goal End Undefeated Streak

Real Sociedad played an exceptional game against league leaders Barcelona Saturday, coming from behind to deliver Barca ‘s first defeat of the season with the score of 3-2.Real Sociedad 3-2 Barcelona

Lionel Messi and Pedro sent the Catalan Giants off to a great start at Anoeta Stadium, putting them up 2-0 for most of the 1st half. As of then, it looked as though Barcelona’s 19th La Liga victory of the season was within arms-reach. Real Sociedad needed a miracle to get back in the game, set aside win it all.

But unfortunately for Barcelona, that is exactly what had happened.

A red card for Gerard Pique let Sociedad fight back though, and with goals from Gonzalo Castro, Javier Mascherano (own goal), and Imanol Agirretxe, the squad secured the jackpot.

But the jackpot was much more than a mere 3 points. It was a win against an undefeated side that has a total of 21 La Liga and 4 Champions League titles, and if that’s not a feat worthy of praise, I don’t know what is!

The surprising part was that Barcelona had hugely dominant possession of the ball, a whopping 68% of it! Their pass accuracy was 89%, compared to Sociedad’s 74%, but all other statistics had gone in the opposition’s favor.

Sociedad made nearly double the number of shots during the match. 6 of those 14 shots were on target, while only 3 of Barca’s 8 had any chance at finding the back of the net.

Barca only made one change to their starting lineup from last week’s Copa del Rey draw against Malaga, putting in captain Carles Puyol for Javier Mascherano (who still managed to score an own goal). Tito Vilanova put only the strongest men on the pitch to amend their weak performance at home against Malaga, but they still fell short of Sociedad.

The 1st half was surprisingly all Barcelona’s, and getting into rhythm quickly, they look as though they were unstoppable. The squad made many meaningful attacks early on, but few actually tested the defenses. Messi had a one-on-one moment with Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, and though it looked like it was an easy shot to make, it went completely wide, something very unlike the Argentine legend.

Just a minute later, Messi had another chance, but the keeper cleared it. Unfortunately for them, it landed at Iniesta’s feet, who found Messi once again with an assist and slotted the ball past Bravo and into the goal on the 7th minute.

On the 25th minute, Pedro produced another series of attacks against Sociedad. Dani Alves pressured the defense and set up Pedro, who scored his 4th La Liga goal of the season.

2 goals up, Barca continued to push for a 3rd. Messi surged toward the goal and beat Bravo in another 50-50, but his shot hit the post, hinting at what was yet to come.

Real Sociedad 3-2 BarcelonaSociedad cut the lead to just 1 when they used Dani Alves’ mistake to their advantage. As a result, Chori Castro had complete control over the left side of the penalty area, and after an assist from Carlos Vela, he fired his side right back into the game.

Messi had another chance to score for Barca before the half, but it went wide, leaving Barca up 2-1 as the whistle was blown.

Vilanova made no changes to the squad as they entered the 2nd half, a mistake he would later regret. The team made unclean passes and allowed Sociedad and easy entry back into the game.

Pique, who picked up a yellow card in the first half, should have been more careful, but he stuck his leg out in front of Carlos Vela to get the red. This caused Vilanova to make his first change of the match, substituting Mascherano for Fabregas to maintain all 4 men on defense.

Just 3 minutes later, Castro made a powerful curled shot at the Barca goal. Although it would have probably been saved by Valdes, it took a deflection off of Mascherano, whose own goal tied it up at 2 just after the hour mark.

Both teams exchanged attacking plays after the equalizer, but Sociedad manager Philippe Montanier had one substitution left to make, which in fact won them the game. He put in Imanol Agirretxe for Carlos Vela, who evaded Barca’s poor defense on the 90th minute and scored the winner.

You can argue that their loss was largely Gerard Pique’s fault, who had left the squad one man down. It was a significant factor, but not the only thing that caused them to lose at Anoeta.

No matter how you bend it, the team did very poorly both offensively and defensively. All 11 men were on the pitch when Sociedad scored their first, so Pique was not to blame for that goal. They were unable to recover after that, though, and although I’m not diverting the attention from Pique, they shouldn’t have been crushed that badly even with only 10 men.

Now that they have recorded their first loss of the season, Barcelona stays in 1st on the La Liga table with 55 points. Both Madrid teams are still fairly far behind (but haven’t played their 20th games yet), Atletico in 2nd with 44 points and Real in a close 3rd with only 37.

Meanwhile, Real Sociedad stay in 9th place with 29 points. They are just 3 points away from 5th placed Malaga, meaning that they can rise to that position fairly quickly if they are to have a more successful second half of the season.

Barcelona Goalkeeper Victor Valdes Refuses to Sign New Deal

31-year old Barca star Victor Valdes has announced he will not be extending his stay with the club when his contract expires.

Victor Valdes Refuses to Sign New DealThe Spanish goalkeeper’s current deal runs out at the end of the next season, on 30 June, 2014.

Valdes has played keeper for Barcelona since 2002. Since then, the club has won La Liga 5 times and recorded a total of 3 Champions League titles.

With a total 689 goals saved for Barcelona since the 2005-2006 season, Valdes proved to be a vital factor on the pitch. He has done an exceptional job leading the club’s defenses, and I doubt Barcelona would have recorded all those titles without Victor Valdes guarding the goal.

Valdes has made it clear that he will not be retiring at Nou Camp, though. Now that he has officially declined a contract extension with Barca, Valdes will be a hot transfer target in the summer of 2014. With all his successes with the Catalan Giants, who wouldn’t wan’t the Spaniard playing on their squad?

In response to the news, Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizeretta said:

“We let them know our interest in renewing his contract because he is a keeper of the highest level. Before we could put forward any proposals or speak about anything, his representative told us that the decision had been considered and taken, that he would not continue after June 30, 2014.”

“It’s an irrevocable decision.”

“Barcelona fans need to respect the professional decision of a player who has spent 12 years here. We are asking you to continue supporting him and to encourage him as much as you have done throughout his career.”

“He is committed to this jersey until June 30, 2014 and will defend the goal with everything he has. Meanwhile, we shall work together to see what the next steps should be, along with him and his agent, to work together to deal with this situation that arose yesterday.”

Victor ValdesBarcelona manager Tito Vilanova announced that although he was surprised, he respects Valdes’ decision:

“It’s a shame he’ll leave because Victor is the ideal goalkeeper for Barca. It’s never a good moment for someone like him to leave.”

The situation won’t be a problem for the club until the goalkeeper’s contract expires at the end of next season, giving Barca plenty of time to find someone to replace Valdes.

Barcelona’s reserve goalkeeper, Jose Manuel Pinto, will be 38 years old by then, which means he will likely not be given the position considering they will want a younger, more dependent option.

Manchester United’s David de Gea and Chelsea reserve goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois are two such options that the club can pursue. But no matter who they go after, they will certainly find someone suitable for the position within the next 17 months.

In conclusion, Valdes has done a lot for Barcelona, who are currently leading La Liga, and he will certainly be missed. Hopefully his absence will not impact the team’s enormous success both at the domestic and international levels, but nevertheless, he will forever be remembered as one of the best goalkeepers to ever play for the club.

Road to Ballon d’Or 2012: Lionel Messi

2012 was a hugely successful year for Lionel Messi as his incredible feat of 91 goals in a calendar year shattered Gerd Muller’s previous record of 85 in 1972.

Messi’s performance has only been improving with time, and he never fails to astound his fans with his undisputed talent. The Argentine’s amazing skills simply cannot be put in words. Football fans need only watch him for 5 minutes to recognize he possesses remarkable talent on the pitch.

The way he controls the ball, dodges pressure from the opposition, and then elegantly shoots the ball at the net continue to draw people such as myself right back to him. Even without the ball, I find Messi very interesting to watch, and every footballer, playing either recreationally or proffessionally, can learn at least something from how he plays the game.

I know for a fact that I and the rest of the football world continue to find ourselves dumbfounded as a result of his performances. No one can rival his talent.

Messi is Undeniabely the Best Footballer in the World

And that is exactly why he won his 4th consecutive Ballon d’Or, yet another record set by the Argentine. Messi became the 2012 FIFA Player of the Year over rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta on Monday.

Barcelona have released a fascinating infographic of Messi’s unprecedented and record-setting 2012. Click on the image below to enlarge.

Lionel Messi's 2012

Messi clearly favored his left foot, but was almost equally as productive at home and away.

He scored the most goals against German side Bayern Leverkusen and La Liga squad Malaga, with a total of 6 versus each. Meanwhile, it didn’t come as a surprise that Iniesta made the assists for about 10% of Messi’s goals with Barcelona.

Here is what Gerd Muller said in response to Messi’s 91 goals:

“My record stood for 40 years - 85 goals in a year - and now the best player in the world has broken it, and I’m delighted for him. He is an incredible player, gigantic”

Messi had a great start to 2012, leading Barcelona to a 4-0 victory and scoring 2 times himself away against Osasuna on January 4th. By the end of the season, 25-year-old Messi recorded yet another 45 more goals for his club and country.

In March, Messi became the 1st player to score 5 times in a single Champions League game. The game, which was contested against Bayer Leverkusen, ended in a 7-1 victory for Barca. Before the end of the season, he managed to score hat-tricks against Granada and Espanyol.

His last goal of the season was a simple left-footed strike against Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey, which ended in a 4-0 win for Barca. Unfortunately for them, it was the only trophy they were awarded during that campaign.

Despite his enormous successes, Barcelona brought back few awards from the 2011-2012 season. Real Madrid edged Barca in their La Liga run by a margin of 9 points. Meanwhile, they were knocked out of the Champions League semifinals by Chelsea, who had eventually emerged winners.

Lionel MessiCristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have both had lots of ‘not doing much for their country’ criticism fired at them over the past couple of years. Portugal suffered defeat at the semi-finals of the Euro Cup against Spain, which ended in a 5-3 loss after penalties following a goalless game (Ronaldo consequently was set to take the last penalty but never got the chance).

But Messi has being doing ‘more’ for Argentina in the past year than anyone has for their country, and the criticism seems to be receding. June of last year saw Argentina take on Brazil in a friendly match, in which Messi completed a fantastic hat-trick and sealed a 5-4 victory.

In addition to Brazil, Argentina cruised past Germany and Ecuador during the summer months before the start of the 2012-13 season.

Even with the change in managers, Messi blossomed under Tito Vilanova’s leadership after Pep Guardiola decided to take a brief break from coaching football. By the end of August, Messi already scored 6 times for his club.

Ever since then, Messi has been a goal-scoring machine. Messi netted 35 goals in 26 appearances in all of Barcelona’s competitions before 2013, adding up to a grand total of 91 in 2012.

In the October Clasico versus Real Madrid, Messi striked twice to secure a 2-2 draw in the La Liga match-up at home. Aside from that game, Barcelona has gained the maximum 3 points from all their La Liga opponents in the current season. They currently have 17 wins and 1 draw from their 18 matches in the Spanish League, the best start a team has ever had to La Liga. They currently stand in 1st on the table, 11 points clear of Atletico Madrid and 16 points ahead of Real Madrid.

Unsurprisingly though, Messi has had a fairly decent start to 2013 as well. He contributed 1 goal to Barca’s 4-0 victory against Espanyol, while he watched from the bench as they cruised past Cordoba in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Now, the biggest contender to breaking his newly-set record of 91 goals in a calendar year is Messi himself. I still believe his peak has not yet come, and he can only continue to improve with time.

Messi Wins 4th Successive Ballon d’Or Ahead of Ronaldo and Iniesta

Argentina and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi was awarded his 4th consecutive Ballon d’Or at a ceremony held in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday.

Messi Wins Ballon d'OrMessi crushed the world record last year, scoring 91 goals for his country and his club in a single year. Those goals broke Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 85 goals for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972, making the Argentine the clear favorite to win the award after such a successful season. Of those 91, Messi scored 79 for Barca and another 12 for Argentina in a total of 69 games in 2012.

But despite all of his goals, Barcelona did not have a very successful season. They conceded La Liga to arch-rivals Real Madrid by a margin of 9 points, and lost to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Messi was part of the 3-man shortlist selected to be voted on for the prize. The other two players contending for the Ballon d’Or were his Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. National coaches and captains as well as selected media cast their votes for who they felt was best suited for the award.

The final results polled:

  1. Lionel Messi-41.60%
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo-23.68%
  3. Andres Iniesta-10.91%

Messi became the first player to win the FIFA Player of the Year Award 4 times in a row. With 3 titles, Messi was previously tied with former France international striker, and now UEFA president, Michel Platini. Now that he has surpassed that benchmark, it can now be confidently said that Messi is the best footballer in the world.

At a news conference following the results, Messi said:

“To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words.”

“I would like to recognize my other colleagues from Barcelona. Andres, it has been great to train and play alongside you.”

“I would also like to recognize all of my friends in the Argentina national team, everyone that has worked with me, coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you.”

Meanwhile, a slightly downcast Ronaldo congratulated Messi with the award:

“Whether I win or not it doesn’t matter, it’s a privilege to be here.”

Messi Wins Ballon d'OrBut in case you have forgotten, Ronaldo had also won the Ballon d’Or. The Portuguese was named FIFA Player of the Year once before, seemingly decades ago in 2008, before Messi’s prime. He wore a New York Yankees cap to the pre-gala conference in which he participated.

In the meantime, US international Abby Wambach was named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Also, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and US Women’s coach Pia Sundhage were both given the coach accolades after leading their teams to a Euro Cup and Olympic victory, respectively.

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola finished behind del Bousque. At the news conference, Guardiola confirmed that he plans to resume coaching at the start of next season.

Uzbekistan won the fair play award for their outstanding disciplinary record, while Franz Beckenbauer won the FIFA presidential award.

The World XI All-Star team, which was chosen by FIFPro group of players’ unions, was made up completely of players contesting in Spain’s La Liga. All 3 contestants for the Ballon d’Or were on that list, while the other 8 consisted of players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid.

The goalkeeper was none other than Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, accompanied by teammates Sergio Ramos and Marcelo as well as Barcelona’s Dani Alves and Gerard Pique who all made up the defense. Iniesta stood alongside teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real’s Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Messi led the attack, with Ronaldo and Atletico’s Radamel Falcao at his sides.

The team saw little change from the one created in 2011, with the only changes being Marcelo and Falcao for Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney.

Malaga 3-2 Real Madrid: Madrid Slump to Defeat as Decision to Bench Casillas Backfires

A terrible decision on Jose Mourinho’s part has likely put an end to Real Madrid’s chances at defending their La Liga title in the 2012-13 season.

Malaga vs Real MadridAt their game with Malaga, Mourinho made a surprising move and benched world-class goalkeeper Iker Casillas in favor of backup Antonio Adan. The 25-year old Spaniard has made only 8 appearances at his 4 years with Madrid, and he was clearly in no shape to face 4th-placed Malaga at their game today.

Casillas is captain of Real Madrid and the Spanish National Team, both of which have recorded major victories under his leadership. He is a very popular and respected player among his teammates and fans of Real Madrid, and is considered one of the best goalkeepers in history. The FIFPro vote saw Casillas voted top goalkeeper by players all around the world 4 years in a row, and will likely win again next month. This was the 1st time in 54 important league matches that Casillas had not started for Real Madrid, and the squad was clearly not happy with Mourinho. In response to the manager’s decision, Carles Puyol, a Madrid defender, said:

 ”It surprised us, Iker is our captain.”

Mourinho failed to give any reasonable justification as to his controversial decision, only that he thought Adan was in better shape than Casillas.

“We hadn’t been playing well in different aspects of the game, among which was our defence. It was a technical decision. My opinion is the one that matters. I analysed the players I had available and picked the team to play. You can invent the story you want but it is a purely technical decision and nothing more.”

But no matter what reason he gives, one thing will always remain true: By virtue of the inexperienced backup goalkeeper, Mourinho practically handed Malaga 3 points against one of the best teams in the world.

Adan was not tested much in the first half of the match, but conceded 3 goals in the 2nd half and managed only 3 fairly basic saves.

Malaga vs Real MadridIsco scored Malaga’s 1st of the game, but an own goal from Sergio Sanchez equalized the score at 1-1 on the 66th minute. Santa Cruz put Malaga back on top just 7 minutes later, and then doubled their lead on the 76th minute. A desperate attempt to at least gain a single point at Malaga saw Benzema score Madrid’s 2nd goal, but they were unable to tie it up before the final whistle.

Continuing to defend his decision to have Adan start after Madrid’s defeat, Mourinho said that the goalkeeper had “no influence on the result.” In response to questions about a possible removal from the team in his future, Mourinho said:

“Fear for my job? I have never feared for my job.”

“Neither before, during or after the game have I thought about resigning.”

But despite his confidence, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez has a lot to think about now that they head into their brief winter break.

The game, which ended in a 3-2 win for Malaga, was Real Madrid’s 4th loss in La Liga and their 7th in all leagues this season. They are now 16 points short of league leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona, who have a total of 49 points from their astonishing 16-1-0 record. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid, who have 40 points from their 13-1-3 record, still separate Real Madrid from Barcelona. Real Madrid now have 33 points due to their 10 wins, 3 draws, and now 4 losses, while Malaga are just 2 points short in 4th place with 31 (with a record of 9-4-4).

Radamel Falcao Scores Five Goals to Destroy Deportivo La Coruna

Argentine striker Lionel Messi broke Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year on December 9th, but although that was a crucial date in football history, it may have overshadowed something equally as important.

Radamel FalcaoAtletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao has once again reminded us of his claim that he will soon be the best striker in the world after leading the squad to a historic 6-0 victory over Deportivo la Coruna. The game was yet another demonstration of his undisputed talent on the pitch. Of Atletico’s 6 goals, the 26-year old Colombian found the back of the net 5 times as Atletico Madrid demolished Deportivo la Coruna.

Diego Costa opened the scoring with a header for Atletico on the 23rd minute, but the spotlight was completely on Falcao for the remainder of the match.

Falcao recorded his 1st of the match on the 28th minute after slotting the ball past the goalkeeper’s reach and into the bottom-left corner from the right. His 2nd, which was probably the goal of the match, was scored from just outside the box 3 minutes before the end of the 1st half.  His powerful shot went right past the diving goalkeeper and skimmed the right post as he netted the ball once again, putting Atletico up 3-0 at half time.

The first 20 minutes of the 2nd half had remained fairly quiet until Falcao completed his hat trick. Falcao stepped up to take the penalty kick, which found the bottom-right corner as Deportivo goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia dove left. Just 4 minutes later, the striker found a 4th after he easily headed the ball in following the goalkeeper’s deflection.

Falcao put an end to the Atletico-dominated show as he took advantage of Deportivo’s terrible defense to score his 5th and final goal of the game. Despite the large number of defenders marking Falcao, from inside the box, Falcao slotted a shot that took a deflection off of the goalkeeper but still went in the goal, ending the game in a shocking 6-0 win for Atletico Madrid.

As a result of this historic match, Falcao was named the 1st player to score 5 in a La Liga game since the 2001-02 season. With 17 in total, Falcao is currently the 2nd top goalscorer in La Liga, behind only Lionel Messi (who has 25 goals) and a shocking 3 goals ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid vs Deportivo la CorunaBut although Messi has scored more than Falcao this season, he has also played more games. Messi has scored 30 goals in 23 games, which gives him an average of about 1.3 goals per match. Falcao has a similar average of about 1.27 goals per match thanks to 19 goals in 15 games. Therefore, at this rate, Falcao could threaten Messi’s newly set record in 2013.

Falcao has been very hard to beat this season, slotting in goals from all distances, positions, and angles, and he seems to be improving with every year. Because of his newly established popularity, we will most likely see Falcao leave Atletico for another team when the Transfer Market opens in January.

Reigning European Champions Chelsea and Spanish Champions Real Madrid are hoping to buy the Colombian International for themselves, especially because of their lack of success in their respective leagues this season. His game with Deportivo, in which he hit 5 goals, has surely opened their eyes to the significance of acquiring the striker.

Still-undefeated Barcelona stand atop La Liga with 46 points from their 15-1-0 record. Atletico Madrid are in 2nd place 6 points behind Barcelona and have an astonishing record of 13 wins, 1 draw, and 3 losses. Meanwhile, Real Madrid are trailing in 3rd with 33 points from their terrible 10-3-3 record. If results hold, this will be the first time since the 2003-04 season that Real Madrid haven’t gotten in the top 2 of the Spanish League.

Real Betis 1-0 Real Madrid: Shock Loss Could Cost Madrid the Title

Real Madrid’s chances at defending their La Liga title are slowly slipping away from them. This time, Real Betis delivered Madrid’s 3rd loss of the season. Only 1 goal was needed for Betis to overcome the incumbent La Liga champions, who have clearly had a bad season thus far.

Madrid’s defeat was their 1st in their previous 9 La Liga matches, while Betis recorded their 1st win in 3 games, their previous game ending in an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Sevilla. Despite Real Madrid’s domination of the game, the 9 time Champions League winners were unable to penetrate Betis’ solid defense. Betis goalkeeper Adrian was clearly on top of his game, making multiple vital saves.

The first strike was made by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s left-footed shoot was easily punched by the goalkeeper. Madrid’s second good chance was taken by Germany international Sami Khedira, who’s ball went just wide of the goal.

It was Benat, though, who made Betis’ win possible. About 30 yards from the goal, Benat dribbled the ball down past Khedira and slotted it into the bottom-left corner, beyond Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ reach.

But it could have ended even worse for Los Blancos. Diving into the left side of the goal, Casillas managed a wonderful save following Castro’s powerful strike.

But after that small 10 minute period of Betis success, Mourinho’s men continued to enjoy most of the domination. Angel Di Maria created 2 great chances to equalize. Di Maria’s fired a shot from close range, which quickly Adrian fended off. Benzema caught the ball at his feet, but was unable to place it in the back of the net.

Benzema was sure he had achieved an equalizer after actually getting the ball past the goalkeeper a few minutes later, but it was ruled offside. Di Maria laid out yet another plan to score, but his narrow-angled shot went wide.

Madrid continued to pound Betis’ goal, but despite the numerous chances, all had went wide or were saved. Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored only once in Madrid’s last 5 matches, was unable to score for the team and was clearly unhappy with the results. There are many rumors surrounding Ronaldo such as a possible move to the Premier League next season or a change in nationality (to Spain) to boost his popularity and success.

Earlier today, Rayo Vallecano defeated Mallorca thanks to 2 late strikes in a match that was nothing short of awful. Valladolid just managed a 1-0 victory over Granada after Manucho scored the only goal of the game just after the hour mark. Malaga overcame Valencia (who came in 3rd last year) in their first league win in 5 matches with the score of 4-0, pushing them up into the top 4.

Real Betis took a much needed 3 points from the game, placing them in 5th with a total of 22 points. They currently harbor a 7-1-5 record and are right behind Malaga. Madrid was unable to gain any points from the match, keeping them in 3rd place with 26 points. They have a dissapointing 8-2-3 record, at this point one of their worst in decades, and are still separated by league leaders Barcelona by Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona has not played their 13th league match yet, so providing the Catalans triumph over Levante tomorrow, the gap between arch-rivals Real Madrid and themselves could rise from 8 to 11. This could be fatal to Real Madrid, for unless there is a major screw-up for Barcelona and a huge improvement on Madrid’s part, it is unlikely they will become La Liga champions this season.

Deportivo La Coruña 4-5 Barcelona: A Game That Will Never be Forgotten

What a game. Deportivo’s match with Barcelona on Saturday proved to be one of the most exciting and unexpected games in soccer history. The match featured a red card, a goal straight from a free kick, terrible defending, a hat trick, and huge comebacks from both squads.

Probably one of the most interesting facts is that Deportivo, a team that was promoted this year to La Liga from the Segunda División, scored a total of 4 goals against a team that has won the UEFA Champions League 4 times. No one could have predicted that 9 goals would have been scored during the match, with both teams scoring roughly half of that amount. This game definitely has the potential of being the match of the season, and it is one that fans all around the world needed to see.

In just the first 18 minutes of the match, Barcelona had already given themselves a comfortable 3-0 lead, but little did they know just what a game was still ahead of them. Just two minutes later, Mascherano committed a foul on Riki in the box, resulting in a penalty that Pizzi had converted with ease. Bergantinos and Messi managed to each score another one for their respective teams by the end of the first half, and the Catalans rushed to their lockers with a two-goal advantage.

Two minutes into the second half saw Pizzi scoring another goal for the Galicians. He scored a challenging goal from a free kick that made the score 3-4. To make things even more interesting, Mascherano racked up a second yellow for connecting elbows with Riki, resulting in his removal from the pitch. At 77 minutes, Messi put in a hat trick, his 15th in La Liga, that Deportivo had no way of stopping. Just two minutes later, when fans thought all surprises were already over, Jordi Alba, a Barcelona defender, put in a bizarre own goal that made it 4-5. Luckily for Barcelona, they were able to hold on to their lead this time, awarding them another 3 points on the La Liga table.

Throughout the game, the referee had made controversial calls. Iniesta, Fabregas, and Messi had expressed their concern that Mascherano was punished undeservingly on both occasions and that neither the penalty or the red card should have been given. In addition to that, Fabregas (who was previously substituted out) was booked for entering the pitch in celebration of Barça’s 5th goal. In response to the yellow card, Fabregas said, “If you can’t celebrate a goal anymore, we better stop this game.” Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova was also unhappy with the decision and said “I was just surprised that Cesc was given a yellow card for celebrating a goal.”

Messi, who was clearly the man of the match, is now just 4 goals from Brazilian soccer god Pelé’s record of 75 goals for his club and country in a single calendar year. In this game alone, the Argentine forward had scored 3 beautiful but different goals and assisted another. Following the game, Messi flew immediately to his wife and newborn son Thiago. For all the amazing work he has done for the team, he definitely earned his time off.

Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdés clearly had a bad game, but it wasn’t entirely his fault that the team conceded 4 goals. Their defense was very disorganized, sending bad clearances and failing to successfully stop attacks brought out Deportivo. The own goal was not his fault, because Jordi Alba made a bad pass that was out of Valdés’ reach. The two goals that depended on the goalkeeper alone were the penalty and the free kick, both of which would have been a challenge for any goalkeeper to fend off. Barcelona’s primary tactic during the game was obviously to outscore their opponents, not to prevent any goals.

With another 3 points, Barcelona remains in 1st on the La Liga scoreboard with a total of 22. Their record is currently 7 wins and 1 draw, which is equal to that of Atlético Madrid’s. They still maintain an 8 point gap between themselves and arch-rivals Real Madrid, who seem to have recovered from their slow start. Deportivo La Coruña remained in 18th place following the game, which means they are still in the relegation zone. They have a total of 6 points and a 1-3-4 record.