A sideways look at Spanish football
RESULTS Fri 23 Nov Real Sociedad 0-0 Osasuna Sat 24 Nov Real Betis 1-0 Real Madrid, Malaga 4-0 Valencia, Real Valladolid 1-0 Getafe, Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Mallorca Sun 25 Nov Levante 0-4 Barcelona, Atletico Madrid 4-0 Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Deportivo, Espanyol 0-2 Getafe
BarcelonaLLL doesn't want to contribute to the smug cloud which has appeared over Cataluyna after Barcelona's beat Levante 4-0 - with eleven La Masia men on the pitch at one point - a victory that gives Barça an 11 point lead over Real Madrid. So, we'll jump into the Atlético Madrid camp and remind you what Tito Vilanova pointed out after the game. “The league isn’t over, Atlético are just three points away,” noted the Barça boss.
Atlético MadridNot too much to say except another professional, 'job-done' performance in the Vicente Calderón saw Sevilla humbled 4-0. The big debate this week will be whether Atlético can finally beat Real Madrid in the derby on Saturday, but the feeling from the Rojiblanco camp - who are in possession of an eight point lead over their rivals - could well be “don’t really care!” It’s Atlético who are the new sheriffs in town in Spain’s capital city.
MálagaFinally, a bit of the old swagger returned to Málaga, just when the team needed it. Their 4-0 whipping of Valencia may have included three late goals, but the Andalusians were in control from the off, ending a run of four league games without a victory. “I’m feeling much better now that we’re back to being the team we were before,” smiled wrinkly Manuel Pellegrini.
Pepe MelBetis are a wonderfully unpredictable side just as likely to concede four or five one week as grind out a tight win with a clean sheet the next. It was the former in the calamitous loss to Sevilla last week, and the latter on Saturday, with a fantastically disciplined Betis - without three normal starters in the back four - ensuring they were first to pretty much every ball against Real Madrid. Pepe Mel was a touch concerned what the reception would be for his Betis players for the visit of the league champions due to last week’s hapless derby battering, but it turned out to be a tremendous one from the home crowd, with everything forgiven at the beginning of the match and all forgotten by the end.
Pedro LeónThe forgotten man of Getafe, never mind the forgotten man of Spanish football. Allowed all the time in the world to score his side’s first in a 2-0 win over Espanyol that sees the Coliseum club on the fringes of the European places. But don’t tell Luis García, that. “Every time we talk about Europe, we lose the plot,” admitted the Getafe coach.
Leo BaptistaoNineteen points! 19! Just under half of what Rayo need to stay up and it’s not even December. And Rayo aren’t that good. Then again, that was similar to the story last season and a disastrous slump towards the end of the campaign nearly took the team into the second division. When Rayo play well and win it’s because their 20-year-old Brazilian forward, Leo Baptistao plays well. The second best Leo in la Liga scored Rayo’s first of the game and his sixth of the season, then set up his team’s second with a crafty piece of trickery to give Rayo a 2-0 win over visiting Mallorca.
ValladolidLLL suspects that Valladolid are going to go about their business this season without anyone really noticing that they are there. A bit like Stoke. That’s not really their fault, it’s just that Miroslav Dukic’s side are a simple no-nonsense, get-the-job-done outfit without too many dramas going on. Matches tend to be won by the minimum margin - Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Granada is a typical example - but then again Valladolid rarely ship too many, with the side never conceding more than the two goals in any match.
Fernando LlorenteA first start in la Liga for the big fella and it was nearly celebrated with a first-half goal. However, it wasn’t to be with Athletic drawing 1-1 at home to Deportivo. “My sensation is of impotency,” revealed the ever frank, Marcelo Bielsa.
OsasunaIf you can’t score goals, then it makes total footballing sense to not concede them. That’s the crazy plan for the Pamplona side who have only scored 11 goals in their 13 league games this season, but who now haven’t conceded in their last three league games. The problem is that the northern side haven’t scored in the past two either, with Friday’s goalless draw with Real Sociedad being the team’s second in a row. Still, baby steps and all that.
José MourinhoAnd it all started so well for the Real Madrid boss on Saturday, with Mourinho beginning his post-match meanderings by congratulating the Betis players and fans. Excellent. Important to be a good loser and as well as a good winner and all that. Of course, that didn’t last long. The defeat was also due to the referee, a lack of will from his tired players and, most ludicrously of all, the fixture calendar, which saw Madrid playing on Wednesday then Saturday, with Barcelona playing on Tuesday then Sunday. Absolute poppy-cork, and something Mourinho failed to bring up when it occurred in the opposite direction during round five of la Liga...when Real Madrid won, by pure coincidence. The problem with Madrid is that this season, they aren’t managing to pick up wins when they are not playing so well, something the side were able to do last year when winning the title, pure and simple. The results against Getafe and now Betis reflect this. Two games where the performance levels were similar but brought about wins in the last campaign, but defeats this year. In this weekend’s clash in Seville, Real Madrid took far too long to match the intensity and passion of Betis, but did deserve at least a point with a goal for Karim Benzema ruled offside incorrectly. But these things work for and against your team, and Mourinho knows this and should stop whining and perhaps look at what can be done in the dressing room and the training sessions to give his players some new ideas and perhaps a new attitude. When Mourinho claims that he knows he’s responsible, LLL doesn’t quite believe him.
SevillaAnd so Sevilla’s remarkable run of form (one single win) comes to an end. There were five scored last weekend and four conceded this time around against Atlético Madrid. It’s true that Sevilla were down to ten men after 22 minutes, but the visitors to a perky Vicente Calderón were barely in the game before that point and even less so afterwards. Once again, the conundrum at Sevilla is why can’t they play as they did against Madrid, Barcelona and Betis every week. If Míchel’s hair wasn’t so wonderful and luxuriant, the Sevilla boss would have pulled it all out now trying to solve that particular puzzle.
ValenciaAbsolutely horrendous stuff from Valencia, who barely turned up against Málaga on Saturday and were deservedly stuffed 4-0. The defence was lackluster, midfielder sluggish and the attack pretty much non-existent with just the single shot on target. The side continue their dreadful run of form away from Mestalla with five defeats and two draws in their seven league outings so far this season. “We had a horrible game,” fumed Mauricio Pellegrino, “I felt very surprised and responsible.
Joaquín CaparrósA run of seven defeats and a draw means sees the Mallorca manager under a fair amount of pressure. “We have to have more conviction than ever and we have to believe in ourselves more,” declared Caparrós after the 2-0 defeat at Rayo.
Deportivo A handy point away from home at Athletic lifts Depor out of the relegation zone. Still not very good though, but can’t have everything.
GranadaStill a strong favourite to end up bottom of the table, unless Osasuna and Espanyol fail to pull their socks up by the end of the season. The away defeat at Valladolid continues a run that sees just one win and five defeats. Not a bad side by any means, but there are about 19 stronger this season.
Mauricio PochettinoBy the time this cheeky segment is published and read, the Espanyol boss could be done and dusted at Espanyol after three years due to a limp, insipid home defeat to Getafe early on Sunday afternoon. No matter what stability and financial problems the club is suffering from off the field, there really was no excuse for the complete lack of effort from the Perico players that let the less than formidable Getafe footballers attack at will and pretty much put their muddy feet up on Espanyol’s couch for 90 minutes. “When you fall into a spiral like this it’s very hard,” admitted the Argentinean manager.
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