Sunday, May 18, 2008

Luis Throws Away His Alibi

Luis Aragonés has announced his squad for the European Championship and naturally the press has focused more than anything else on the absence of Real Madrid's Raul from the list of selected players. Aragonés is leaving after the tournament anyway, which partially helps to account for his ability to ignore the pressure to include Raul. That and the fact that he generally makes a virtue out of not listening to any other opinions anyway. Now, of course, if Spain get eliminated in the early stages of the tournament then there will be a torrent of criticism concerning the exclusion of Raul; which is why putting him into the squad would have offered some protection for the national coach. Five players in the Spanish squad are currently playing in the English Premier League, a situation that would have been impossible to imagine just ten years ago when it was very rare for Spanish players to play in other countries. The law of probability and South of Watford’s notoriously unreliable crystal ball say that Spain will go out in the quarter finals.

The Spanish season comes to an end today with most clubs having little to play for. Barcelona secured third place last night, a disappointing outcome for a club that doesn’t like to have to play the preliminary rounds of the Champions League. It was Frank Rijkaard’s last game with the club, having been succeeded by home grown Barça legend Pep Guardiola. The fact that Guardiola was part of the Dream Team under Johan Cruyff almost guarantees that he will be given some time to make his mark, although the pressure to win something after two seasons of failure will also be intense. It is at the bottom of the Liga where most of the suspense will be today as one of Zaragoza, Recreativo, Valladolid and Osasuna will be relegated alongside Murcia and Levante. Zaragoza start in the worst position, although the Recreativo-Valladolid clash promises to be a tense encounter and Osasuna could easily lose in Santander. In the last couple of weeks I’ve started listening to football coverage over the internet from Spanish radio. When you want to have the full picture of what is happening in all the games it’s really much better than the television coverage, as well as being more entertaining.

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