Soccer’s SD Eibar crashing Spanish La Liga Party

sd-eibarWhile Spanish La Liga features some of the top talent in the soccer world, the league has become somewhat stale and predictable. It seems like every year the La Liga title is passed between the two giants – Barcelona and Real Madrid (although Atletico Madrid won last year). This is like a more-extreme version of Major League Baseball, where it’s not uncommon to see either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox win the World Series. But this year, all eyes will be on a true underdog in the SD Eibar “Gunners.”

If you’re not familiar with the typical European soccer league format, teams can move up or down in divisions based on their performance from previous years. Calling on baseball again, this would be like the Triple A Toldeo Mud Hens winning a spot in the MLB. Only, SD Eibar is on an even smaller scale, having been in the confines of the second division from 1986 until last year. But after playing out of their minds, this team earned the right to move up to La Liga play.

Hailing from the small town of Eibar (pop. 27,507), the Gunners will now have an opportunity to take on the likes of Real Madrid in giant, sold-out stadiums. This is quite a step up when you consider that the Gunners’ own stadium holds just 5,200 fans. And this stadium is where SD Eibar grabbed their first-ever La Liga victory – a 1-0 triumph over Real Sociedad.

sd-eibar-1Make no mistake about it, this team has the talent to compete. They knocked off second-division rival Alavés last year with a number of good athletes who can run the field and pull off some spectacular plays. But even though they are good enough, SD Eibar faced another huge challenge to enter La Liga – raise €1.7 million ($2.2 million) by early August.

This rule was imposed by the Spanish Football Association, which requires any La Liga team to at least have capital equal to 25% of the average expenses of second-division teams. To Barcelona or Real Madrid, which both spent over $190 million on players alone last season, this amount is a joke. But to SD Eibar, this required a serious fund-raising effort.

Like the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, they sold shares in the team that were capped at $100,000. Manchester City players David Silva and Xabi Alonso, who are former Eibar members, helped raise money too. With these efforts, the team easily hit its funding mark by early July.

Now officially a member of La Liga and boasting a 1-0 record, SD Eibar will certainly draw fanfare from all over the world. After all, they are the unlikeliest of teams to be playing against talent-rich squads like Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. And they still have 37 matches left to keep proving that they belong with the big boys.

Neymar scores Twice in First Match since Back Injury

neymar-vs-leonThe last image that fans got of Neymar during the 2014 World Cup was of him being carried off on a stretcher in pain during Brazil’s 2-1 quarterfinals victory over Columbia. Neymar broke a vertebra in his back when Colombian defender Juan Camillo Zuniga inadvertently kneed him on a header attempt.

Over one month removed from this injury, Neymar was back on the pitch during Barcelona’s preseason tuneup game against Mexican champion Leon. And he contributed two goals during the 6-0 route of Leon along with an assist to Lionel Messi.

The assist came just three minutes into the match. Then Neymar added his two goals in the 12th and 44th minutes. He was substituted out at halftime, making way for Barcelona youth forwards Munir El Haddadi to score in the 54th and 77th minutes and Sandro Ramirez to score in the 89th.

Going back to Neymar, he definitely looks to add another dimension to Barca’s high-powered attack. The 21-year-old, who scored four goals in five World Cup matches, now has two goals in his lone preseason match. So if you’re into Spanish La Liga betting, definitely keep his star power in mind.

Suarez also returns

luis-suarez-vs-leonNeymar’s return wasn’t the only big news for Barcelona this past weekend. Luis Suarez also played his first match since the 2014 World Cup, where he was infamously banned for biting an Italian defender. Unlike Neymar, though, Suarez didn’t have quite the dramatic impact.

He entered in the 75th minute as a substitute, drawing lots of cheers from the Camp Nou crowd in Barcelona. Suarez only touched the ball a few times in his limited minutes, but there should definitely be more to come from the talented striker.

He transferred over from Liverpool after FIFA imposed a 4-month ban on him. Suarez was originally not allowed to practice with Barcelona or participate in exhibition matches. However, FIFA has since softened their stance, which is why he was allowed to play in the match against Leon. He also just started practicing last Friday – a big reason why he only got to play 15 minutes.