Tuesday’s soccer news starts with Barcelona’s situation. The 6th-place team in La Liga makes a trip to Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium to play Real Madrid in tomorrow’s Supercopa de Espana. Spain’s revamp of what most European leagues use as the finale of the preseason not only moves to a different country but includes four teams. Barcelona qualified by making last season’s Copa del Rey final along with Athletic. Atletico Madrid is in as the defending league champions with Real Madrid runners-up.
It’s an interesting time for Sergino Dest’s club, looking to operate in the January transfer window under strict economics. Barcelona’s financial situation is now well known, and so is their need to turn draws into wins in La Liga.
Barcelona has drawn three out of four games since losing at home to Real Betis on December 4, their only loss under new coach Xavi. The latest example was a 1-1 result at Granada on Saturday.
“I think we lose two points at the end, of course,” Barcelona midfielder Luuk de Jong said following that draw at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes. “We were dominating. There was nothing wrong, and then you score 1-0 and then you get a red card.”
Their eight draws are the highest in the top seven, but it’s turning into a trend further down the table this season. 9th-place Athletic leads La Liga with 10 draws from 21 games. 13th-place Granada has nine, while 15th-place Mallorca and two teams in the relegation zone 19th-place Cadiz and 20th-place Levante have matched Barca’s eight. The temptation is to see those as two points lost rather than a point gained. Those hypothetical seasons have teams pushing higher up the table.
No team has less than four draws this season, Real Madrid’s number at the top of the table with 49 points from 21 games. That’s five better than 2nd-place Sevilla, but Sevilla has a game in hand. The 11-point gap between 2nd and 3rd is what Barcelona and the rest of the top seven should be targeting. Three points separate 3rd from 7th, a clear opportunity for a reshuffling of clubs all level on 20 games played.
3rd-place is where Barcelona finished last season, two points better than 4th-place Sevilla. The competitiveness of La Liga has seen Real Madrid lose at Espanyol and Getafe. After losing all four of their games in December, defending champions Atletico Madrid slid down the table to 4th. What that suggests may already be a La Liga version of parity. Responding to that will take more than leaning on the super club model of simply outspending everybody else. Barcelona may be the obvious example, but this season could show how things are changing across the Spanish topflight.
MLSsoccer’s Ari Liljenwall reports on USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s press conference. The Guardian’s Graham Ruthven asks about the USMNT’s attacking options. US Soccer confirmed that current president Cindy Parlow-Cone and former president Carlos Cordeiro are the candidates for the 2022 presidential election.
Forbes Adam Digby works through what Juventus accomplished in a comeback against Roma. Football Italia’s Susy Campanale on the attendance limits in Serie A. FourFourTwo’s Richard Jolly asks about Burnley’s season. iNews’ Daniel Storey with what’s happening at Southampton.
TUESDAY’S SOCCER TV
Cup of Nations on beIN Sport: Tunisia vs Mali at 8am, Mauritania vs Gambia at 11am, and Equitorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast at 2pm. Supercopa de Espana on ESPN: Barcelona vs Real Madrid at 2pm ET.
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Logo courtesy of the Supercoppa de Espana