Real Madrid’s Julen Lopetegui is in good company as a coach in crisis in La Liga, as the managers of some other big hitters are also in deep trouble
It’s Clásico time!
But, you know, there’s plenty of think pieces about Sunday’s big game and just how delicate Julen Lopetegui’s position is right now at the White House. That’s why we picked Matchday 10 to illustrate the tough predicaments several other coaches in La Liga are facing this weekend.
Marcelino García Toral (Valencia, 14th place)
At the top of the world last year with an astounding season and the most improved team (from 12th place in the 16-17 competition to finishing in fourth). But something hasn’t been ‘clicking’ since August.
Valencia have amassed an incredible nine draws in the 12 official games played to date. The rest of the stats are not that positive, either: two losses and only a single win. As October is about to finish, only one reason for delight out of twelve has Valencianistas pretty worried.
With a complicated situation in their Champions League group and only 10 points in La Liga, winning in Bilbao against Athletic isn’t only a matter of sheer competition: urgency is knocking at the door.
‘Toto’ Berizzo (Athletic Bilbao, 17th place)
When Marcelino’s coin is flipped, we find Eduardo Berizzo. Athletic’s board believed their bold move at the summer transfer market would pay off – bringing in the manager who turned Celta into a competitive side and handing him the tools and a group of players with hunger to improve an ongoing slump lasting several years.
Athletic’s clash against Valencia on Saturday will also mean a face-off between two managers who are lacking the results and points to back up their work. Berizzo is a good manager, there’s no doubt about that, but he hasn’t slotted in perfectly into Athletic’s bench. Lackluster performances and problems when trying to generate chances have penalized his team. The mighty San Mamés has lost its might. Berizzo needs to make the most of the chances he still has to turn things around.
Mauricio Pellegrino (Leganes,18th place)
‘Auteur’ sides have both pros and cons. Such was the case with Asier Garitano’s Leganés. A strong personality and plenty of deep knowledge of the strengths of his squad. His departure last summer meant that Leganes would have to reinvent itself, and they chose Mauricio Pellegrino (coming off his successful stint in Vitoria and short spell on Southampton’s bench) to lead the project.
After over a dozen signings in the summer and struggling to put together the pieces of the puzzle, Leganes finally looked in better shape last weekend versus Valencia. This time they travel once again to the sunny Capital del Turia as they face a very in-form Levante. ‘El Flaco’ needs to keep picking up points to climb out of the relegation zone. The good news: a single win could skyrocket them into 13th spot.
Javi Calleja (Villarreal, 16th place)
On Thursday, Javi Calleja finally exhaled after holding his breath for several weeks. Villarreal haven’t looked good for the past few weeks, blending promising showcases of talent (against Atlético, for example) with disappointing evenings where the team crashed down like a house of cards.
Again, Thursday’s Europa League fixture seemed to shift the team’s gears quite a bit. Their 5-0 win against Rapid Wien was a breath of fresh air which allowed fans to leave Estadio de la Cerámica really happy. However, some serious issues still remain to be fixed in La Liga: a 16th spot is unacceptable for a side that always aspires to become a European contender.