A sideways look at Spanish football
Diego CostaNobody seems to be best of friends on the pitch with the pugnacious Atlético Madrid striker, who was spat at by Betis defender Antonio Amaya, but the Rojiblanco massive certainly has big love for the Brazilian forward after he came on a second half substitute to head home a corner. Atlético Madrid have now won 21 from 21 in the Vicente Calderón in all competitions in a 1-0 win over Betis in a clash where it was a miracle that there wasn’t a single sending off in a marvelously ill-tempered affair. Oh yes. Six is the number of times that Atlético Madrid have dropped points in la Liga this season and also the number of times the side has bounced back with a victory.
Julio BaptistaThe shed-sized Málaga forward was back playing football after an absence of 16 months and two days due to injury.
Ever BanegaThe trouble-seeking Valencia midfielder found himself in the news once again this weekend, after turning up five minutes late for Friday's training session and reportedly looking like he had had an eventful evening. Ever made up for yet another mini-scandal by helping his team to a 1-1 draw against a tired looking Barcelona, wiping out the all too recent memory of the 5-0 loss to Real Madrid a fortnight ago. “Today we saw a different Valencia, with a lot of effort, pressure, winning back the ball and getting forward,” said a pleased Ernesto Valverde whose side are edging ever closer to the fourth Champions League spot.
Real SociedadA comprehensive 3-0 win over Mallorca keeps la Real on track for a cheeky run at the European places.
Valladolid & Athletic BilbaoBoth sides make the happy section after a proper belting, ‘trouble at mill’, pigeon-fancying northern encounter on Friday night. The clash finished 2-2, but it could have been a heck of a lot more. Valladolid take another step forward in a very solid season that should see a comfy mid-table finish, while Athletic continue a steady improvement that’s being helped enormously by other players aside from Ariz Aduriz actually managing to come up with some goals.
SevillaThe revival continues under Unai Emery, who is delivering on his promise to restore the form of a host of first-team players rather than buy new ones in the winter window. The temporary downside is that the footballer who has most benefited from this resurgence, Ivan Rakitic, will be missing the visit to the Santiago Bernabéu next week after picking up two yellows in a match where he opened the scoring for his side in a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano.
Getafe Deportivo did a dutiful job on Saturday by popping along to the Coliseum and losing 3-1, giving Getafe their first victory in eight games. Depor even had a one man and one goal advantage for some of the encounter after Getafe keeper Miguel Angel Moya was sent off early doors after giving away a penalty. That imbalance was equalled in the 70th minute with the red card for Abel Aguilar. It was at this point that Getafe grabbed a couple of goals to finish off what had been a 1-1 stalemate. “The team was spectacular,” beamed Luis García.
Javier AguirreThe flat-topped fighter continues to lead Espanyol to an impressive run that sees just the single defeat in nine, since the Mexican manager arrived at the club at the end of November. That defeat came at the Camp Nou, so it was hardly a huge cause of shame for the Pericos. The latest win was a 3-2 victory over Levante, another top Saturday night clash, and a fourth win in Cornellà in a row in la Primera.
ZaragozaMuch, much better from a Zaragoza side that has been a poor one of late. The 1-1 draw at Málaga continues a run of five matches without a win in la Liga but Zaragoza were just a puppy’s pillow from snatching everything in la Rosaleda. “I’m leaving with the feeling of having lost two points,” admitted Zaragoza coach, Manolo Jiménez.
GranadaLike many sides this season who have taken points off Real Madrid, Granada did not need to do a huge amount aside from work hard, put in some decent tackles and concentrate. However, there was a spring in the Andalusian side’s step with the arrival of latest coach, Lucas Alcaraz, and some new players up front, although the home side didn’t have a single shot on goal. Then again, Granada didn’t need to thanks to the ever prolific Cristiano Ronaldo.
OsasunaA video campaign to get the home fans behind the side which featured some grizzled men yelling did the trick for Osasuna, who opted for the team’s normal route one football and eventually found a breakthrough in a 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Celta Vigo. The victory sees Osasuna putting back-to-back wins in Pamplona against relegation rivals and moves the side out of the drop zone by a point.
BarcelonaTwo points lost in the title race - look, LLL is trying to make things sound exciting - have enabled Atlético Madrid to close the gap at the top to nine points.
Real MadridJosé Mourinho attempted a bit of a moan about the fixture calendar and having to play on Saturday when Barça took to the field against Valencia on Sunday, but it was a half-hearted affair. The real targets of Mourinho’s ire were the footballers such as Gonzalo Higuaín and Angel di María that did not start Real Madrid’s clash against Barcelona. It doesn’t take the squeeze of Iker Casillas to recognise that this is a team who are not at ease with their manager and have completely lost any motivation to compete in la Liga.
José Mourinho“You say when we win, it’s self-management and when we lose it’s the fault of the coach,” complained the Madrid manager to the press after the Granada defeat, the fifth on the road in la Liga this season, and the fourth in Andalusia. “Mourinho cries a lot. Too much. You could hire him for funerals and burials,” was the response from Roberto Palomar writing in Marca.
Manuel PellegriniThe Málaga coach does not appear to be a happy chappy at the moment, and that’s not entirely unsurprising with footballers continuing to be sold from under his Chilean nose - “I understand you have to balance the economic side but it’s affecting the sporting side”, said Pellegrini after the sale of Nacho Monreal - and having to play on a pitch at home that the manager has been complaining about for some time. “We can’t string two passes together,” retorted Pellegrini after the 1-1 draw with Zaragoza.
BetisThe defeat in the Vicente Calderón continues an iffy run for the Sevilla side that sees Betis three matches without a win.
LevanteTired legs in are starting to set in as Levante get closer to their main target of the campaign - the 42 points survival mark. The team are still three wins short of this after a 3-2 defeat at Espanyol that sees four defeats the Levante’s last six league games.
Celta VigoLamentable away form from Celta which has produced just four points from 12 games continued with a 1-0 defeat at Osasuna. “We didn’t do anything well,” complained Paco Herrera who was forced to watch the game from the press area due to suspension along with rival coach, José Luis Mendilibar. “The worst Celta I’ve seen this year,” said the former Liverpool trainer on a team with just the single win from nine.
MallorcaIt just gets worse and worse for the Balearic side which is now second-from-bottom. The defeat at Real Sociedad sees Mallorca with one win in 17 and Bernd Schuster reportedly waiting in the wings to take over from Joaquín Caparrós.
DeportivoLLL still has a feeling the Galicians are going to stay up but that’s mainly reliant on Deportivo winning a game away from home, which the side have failed to do this season in la Liga. “There are nerves and you can feel this,” admitted defender, Manuel Pablo, after the 3-1 defeat at Getafe.
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