This topsy-turvy world
From Ballon d’Or to playing in front of 7 000 fans.
Luka Modric has been voted the best player on the planet and Real Madrid crowned European champions three times in a row but in Huesca today they will meet a team from the opposite end of the ladder.
Madrid´s stars gathered in Paris on Monday, dressed in shiny black suits and bow-ties, to watch their midfield magician collect the Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“He is at his peak,” Real coach Santiago Solari said. “That makes it even more beautiful.”
They head this weekend to northern Spain and Alcoraz, Huesca’s recently-expanded stadium with a capacity of just over 7 000, in a town of little more than 52 000 people.
There, they face La Liga’s bottom club, on seven points from 14 games, but Huesca’s ascent began far lower down than that.
The majority of their 58-year history has been spent between the third and fourth tiers. They were languishing in Segunda B as recently as 2015.
Promoted to the top flight for the first time at the end of last season, Huesca overhauled their squad, but on a shoe-string budget, with a mix of players from lower divisions, promising youngsters and old heads from abroad.
They changed coach too, twice, after Rubi was poached by Espanyol. He was replaced by Leo Franco, who only lasted until October. Then in came Francisco, who is yet to see a victory.
This will be Huesca´s first time hosting either of Spain´s two grandees.
“We have seen people are behind us despite the results and pushes us to turn it around,” Francisco said last week. “Our home has to be a fortress.”
In the summer of 2013, Real Madrid bought Gareth Bale for a world record €100 million while Huesca signed seven players, all for nothing.
Madrid are in good form and Bale, again, has a point to prove. He came off in the second half of last weekend’s win over Valencia, Santiago Solari saying afterwards he was “exhausted”.
It was Bale’s 10th La Liga game without scoring, even if that run masks some decent performances, including two goals and an assist in the Champions League.
Real’s victory over Valencia, on the back of beating Roma in Italy, means the 3-0 defeat to Eibar following the international break seems more like a blip amid six wins from seven matches.
Despite changing coach this season, a scoreless drought that lasted more than eight hours and being thrashed by Barcelona, Real are only five points off the top.
Last weekend, Barca, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Alaves could all have finished the round in first but only two of the top six managed to win.
Barcelona were one of them. Today, Ernesto Valverde’s side visit their city rivals Espanyol.
Atletico host Alaves, who have finished every weekend in the top six since round five. Sevilla are away to Valencia, a side that last season finished fourth but now sit 14th. – AFP