The 22/23 La Liga season may have been on hold for the past month, but plenty of Spanish football related action has been going on during the international break, including some dramatic friendlies, Copa Del Rey action and masterclass performances on the biggest stage.
Every team besides Real Madrid and Barcelona travelled the world to partake in club friendlies to keep the players who didn’t go to Qatar for the World Cup in good shape, and many shock results took place. One of which happened in Cadiz, where Los Piratas stunned Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United, beating them 4-2 in early December, albeit United did make a lot of changes at half time, but so did Cadiz, and they still won each half 2-1. Credit where credit is due for the club currently sat 19th in La Liga.
Cadiz weren’t the only Spanish side to shock the Red Devils, when only three days later, United travelled to Seville and were beaten 1-0 by Real Betis, thanks to a goal from Nabil Fekir. Before this upset though, the almost full strength Betis were on tour in Argentina where they lost 4-0 to River Plate, and 5-0 and 1-0 in two games against Colo Colo.
Bilbao winger Gorka Guruzeta continued his fine form scoring three goals, as Athletic Club won all three of their friendlies without conceding a goal. Zimbabwean striker Tino Kadawere made his long awaited debut for RCD Mallorca just before the break, and found his feet in the friendly action, scoring four goals in three games. Exciting, young Almeria striker El Bilal Touré also followed on from his impressive string of league performances, scoring twice in three games which saw the La Liga returnees go undefeated against Al Nassr, Torino and Lazio.
Copa Del Rey
La Liga returned over the past week, with Copa Del Rey, Round of 64 action taking place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 15 out of the 16 La Liga Santander sides managed to make it through (Barcelona and Real Madrid come in at the next stage), but it was Girona who joined Almeriaand Cadiz as the top tier sides eliminated from the competition as they were stunned by fourth tier side Cacereno, losing 2-1 on Thursday.
Joining Cacereno in the Round of 32 is Segunda RFEF 5 (fourth tier) side Ibiza Islas Pitiusas, after they upset former La Liga Santander side Eibar. As well as the two fourth tier sides, there will be eight third tier sides in the Round of 32, yet only five Segunda Division sides remain after nine clubs were knocked out this week.
Exciting Atletico Madrid midfielder Pablo Barrios played 90 minutes in the Copa, and scored the go-ahead goal in the 76th minute for his first professional goal for Atleti. Sociedad prospect Jon Karrikaburu also opened his tally for the main team, scoring a brace against CD Coria. 19-year-old Sevilla forward Carlos Álvarez made his first start for the main team, and started his professional career off with the opening goal against Juventud Torremolinos.
Although it was former La Liga superstar Lionel Messi who won the hearts of the world in Qatar, many current players shined in the scorching sun of the Middle East.
Atletico Madrid striker Álvaro Morata scored three goals and assisted one in only 183 minutes of action in Spain’s underwhelming campaign. However he will still be competing with Antoine Griezmann for a regular place in the Madrid side, as the Frenchman caught the eye of many viewers all around the world with his stunning performances to help France reach the final, getting three assists to top off his many flawless appearances for the runners-up.
Despite Spain’s disappointing performance as a whole, youngsters AnsuFati, Alex Balde, Gavi and Nico Williams all made numerous appearances, as well as Barcelona forward Ferran Torres scoring three goals throughout the tournament.
However, it was Ferran’s Barcelona teammate Frenkie De Jong who stole the show in Qatar. According to stats from the football app FotMob, Frenkie finished with the highest rating in all three group games, and was simply unplayable on the pitch throughout the tournament, before unfortunately losing out on penalties to the eventual winners, Argentina.
The World Cup’s dark horse story featured African side Morocco, who made the semi-final, topping their group and knocking out Spain and Portugal on the way. Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou starred for ‘The Atlas Lions’ who finished the competition with the best defensive record, with Bounou tied at the top of the golden glove standings, with three clean sheets to his name. Helping Bounou in defence was Valladolid’s veteran centre back Jawad El Yamiq, whose solid defensive efforts were one of the main reasons that the 22nd ranked club finished 4th in Qatar, the speedy centre half also nearly secured the Puskas award on the way with an incredible bicycle kick against France that narrowly missed the target.
Finally, a massive congratulations to Villarreal’s Geronimo Rulli and Juan Foyth, Real Betis’ Germán Pezzella and Guido Rodriquez, Atletico Madrid’s Ángel Correa, Rodrigo De Paul, Nahuel Molina and Sevilla’s Marcos Acuna, Alejandro Gomez and Gonzalo Montiel who took home the gold medal in Qatar with Argentina, with Montiel very confidently scoring the winning penalty in the final to win the tournament.
League action returns next Thursday (29th), with Barcelona sitting on top of the table ahead of The Derbi Barceloní against Espanyol, which takes place on Saturday (31st) afternoon.