A sideways look at Spanish football
RESULTS Sat 1 Dec Getafe 1-0 Malaga, Valencia 2-5 Real Sociedad, Barcelona 5-1 Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid 2-0 Atletico Madrid Sun 2 Dec Granada 0-0 Espanyol, Deportivo 2-3 Real Betis, Celta Vigo 1-1 Levante, Mallorca 1-1 Real Zaragoza.
BarcelonaBarcelona's start to the league season - 13 wins and a draw - is now the best in the Spanish League ever, ever, ever - beating Real Madrid’s run from 1991-92. But the peculiar thing is that it doesn’t feel like an earth-shattering event, simply because Barça have been so consistently spectacular over the past few years. Then there’s the fact the side have made the current campaign look so easy, even managing to pick up wins without playing with any proper defenders on the pitch for a number of games. Tito Vilanova didn’t seem particularly fussed about the milestone, and was chirpier about the 5-1 panning of Athletic Bilbao which secured it. “I’m very happy about having achieved this record, but more so for the performance of the players,” said the Barça boss.Praise also came from Marcelo Bielsa, the coach that may well have been sitting in Tito’s seat if Barça weren’t so fond of choosing number twos. The Athletic boss claimed that there was no real change from the days of Pep Guardiola. “They have the same power, the same style, the same sensation of constant danger with any type of ball in any area of the pitch,” admired Bielsa.
Leo MessiTwo more goals (that’s four braces in a row in la Liga now) puts the Argentinean genius just one strike away from equalling Gerd Müller’s record of 85 in a calendar year. However, Marca are making things a little confusing by chalking up Barça’s second strike as an own goal, thus leaving Messi on 'just' 20 goals so far this season in their Pichichi charts, although they do recognise the referee’s awarding of the effort to the Argentinean. That’s not going to get complicated at all...
Cristiano RonaldoThe poor fella doesn’t seem quite himself these days, but Ronaldo was the only one who turned up for work at the Santiago Bernabeu with a rare set-piece strike, an assist and efforts against the bar and post. More than everyone else on the pitch put together, in fact. Ronaldo has now scored eight goals against Atlético in eight games.
José MourinhoThe Real Madrid manager promised he would be on the pitch at 9.20 at the Santiago Bernabeu giving the chance for anyone in the stadium to boo or cheer him. And there he was, milking the noise for a couple of minutes. Whoever is writing Mourinho’s plot-lines and material these days is very good indeed - not even LLL could do it better. Real Madrid is more soap opera than football club these days.
Joel Campbell An absolute beauty of a winner from the on-loan Arsenal striker gave Betis the three points and ended a tremendous week which delivered three wins to put the side into the next round of the Copa and moved Betis into the Champions League places.
Luis GarcíaA fortieth birthday present for the Getafe manager from defender, Lopo, who gave his side a 1-0 win over Málaga to make it three victories in a row for the Madrid team. Perhaps the others gave him some underwear and aftershave instead. Anyway, heady days indeed at the Coliseum where the dozens of fans in attendance at the games will be pinching themselves in excitement, as opposed to staying awake. “It costs the earth to win every game,” admitted García whose strikers fired blanks for the 15th time in 16 games.
LevanteA handy point away from home at Celta keeps things ticking over for the only functioning club in the city of Valencia these days.
Philippe MontanierPerhaps what really riled the Valencia fans in their whopper of a defeat to Montanier's Real Sociedad was the fact the Basque side is usually a fairly unassuming, polite outfit who don’t tend to turn teams over. La Real have now won three from four to put the team into eighth. Still not enough for the fans and large chunks of the local media, who will probably permanently have it in for the French boss.
Alberto de la BellaWhat a shimmy and a dummy from the Real Sociedad full-back for his side’s first of five. Ooh. Suits you.
RobertoHere’s a open question to ponder, and one a few people LLL has spoken to in Spain answer with a 'yes'. Is the Zaragoza No.1 the best Spanish keeper at the moment?
OsasunaThe Pamplona’s club ‘you shall not pass’ Gandalf-style vibe is starting to bear fruit. Osasuna have now gone four league games and a cup victory without conceding a single goal. Nada. Nichts. Nothing. Friday’s night shut-out of Rayo Vallecano and a sneaky goal at the other end means LLL must extend a pat on the back to the club for holding their nerve and keeping faith with José Luis Mendilibar. Osasuna rode their luck a little bit against Rayo who probably deserved a point with the home side boss admitting that the clash was “the most difficult match of the season by some way.”
Unai EmeryOk, so it probably wasn't the best week for Mauricio Pellegrino’s predecessor at Valencia, what with Emery losing his job at Spartak, but the crouching one will probably still enjoy the enormous discomfort being suffered by his old bosses in Mestalla after the 5-2 defeat to Sociedad.
La Liga LocaThe beginning of the season saw all sorts of confusion for the blog, with Mauricio/Manuel Pochettino/Pellegrino/Pellegrini at the helm of Espanyol, Valencia and Málaga. Not any more. The double firing of two of that trio this week saw life become an awful lot easier, with just the Málaga man left standing.
Atlético MadridLosing against Real Madrid isn’t an unusual occurrence for Atlético, after all, the side have now failed to beat their neighbours 24 times in a row over the past 13 years and one month. But what was really disappointing was that this time, this time, this time, there was the feeling that the Rojiblancos were really going to make the derby a contest, with the side in confident form and eight points above Real Madrid in the table. But once again, Atlético failed to turn up, and made this one of the worse contests of recent years, and one that the blog would like to purge from its memory as soon as possible.
MálagaAfter a bit of a happy bump against Valencia last week, when Málaga came out 4-0 winners, the more familiar form returned with a defeat at Getafe, leaving them with just a single victory in six league games. “We have the squad that we have and with it, we can go for everything,” said Manuel Pellegrini both chippy and chipper to suggestions that reinforcements may be needed in the winter to make sure Málaga have enough juice in the tank to last till May.
Mauricio PellegrinoLLL is not sure that Mauricio Pellegrino was the right choice for the Valencia job in the first place - it needs a gentleman with skin made of teflon and a heart of stone to manage the club, and the fans who didn’t know when they had a good thing in Unai Emery. However, the former Mestalla player deserved more time at the helm than the 154 days that he got, despite the evident problems the side was having. Valencia president, Manuel Llorente, denies making a rash decision a short time after the Mestalla massive were calling for his own resignation, rather than that of the manager, but it does feel like a self-serving sacrifice. “I think the decision is unfair,” said Pellegrino on Sunday with the former boss being applauded by a group of fans who had come to the training centre. “We were four or five points from our objective in la Liga, through in the Champions League and alive in the Cup.”It’s going to be hard rooting for Valencia for the rest of the season, whose leadership are such that they even make the trigger-happy pair running the third-place chasing Atlético Madrid appear faintly likable.
Athletic BilbaoDecent for about 15 minutes against Barcelona but ended up conceding five for the third time in la Liga this season.
MallorcaBit of a weird match for Mallorca who were up against a 10 man Zaragoza for 77 minutes but still couldn’t win, making it nine matches without a victory. It was almost a very bad day for Mallorca striker, Víctor, who insisted on taking a first half penalty but proceeded to miss it, but scored a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw. “The effort of my players was 100%, they gave everything and this is the path we need to follow,” announced a positive Joaquín Caparrós.
Juan Antonio Anquela A home match against a rattled Espanyol with a new coach was as good a chance of any to pick up a only the side’s second win in eight. Instead it was a goalless draw with the Granada boss the favourite to be the next sacking in la Primera now that the floodgates have opened.
DeportivoA challenging campaign continues with Deportivo slipping to second-from-bottom after a 2-3 home defeat by Betis. Just one victory in 13 games now for the Galician side. “I’m still feeling good and feel safe in my job,” said Depor boss José Luis Oltra after the defeat.
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