A sideways look at Spanish football
FourFourTwo.com's man in Spain, Tim Stannard, sums up the best and worst of the weekend's action from La Liga...
Leo MessiIt would probably be easier for the blog to simply compile a weekly list of statistics and landmarks achieved by the Argentine, who is now getting increasingly boring. Messi's brace in Barça’s 2-1 win at Granada sees the 25-year-old move on to 301 goals for the Catalan club in official games, 238 of those in la Liga. Messi has now scored in 14 league games in a row, banging in 24 along the way.
Diego SimeoneThis may sound dull, but that never stopped LLL before. For the seventh time now, Atlético Madrid have bounced back immediately after dropping points in la Liga. The comprehensive 3-0 win at Valladolid which followed last week’s defeat at Rayo was also Atlético's first away win in all competitions for in eight attempts. “Today, I’m proud of my team, a team of men,” growled Diego Simeone.
Alvaro MorataLa Liga Loca is going to give the Madrid youth team product the benefit of the doubt with a placement in the Good Day section, despite an appearance lasting just 26 minutes due to the unfortunate sending off of Sergio Ramos and a subsequent tactical rejiggle. Morata was getting his first league start for the club - Karim Benzema was getting the Iker/Adán treatment and watching the game from the bench - and the youngster scored after just three minutes, only to be hauled off before he was able to add to his tally.
Willy CaballeroThe 31-year-old Argentine pulled off another fine performance in Málaga's 1-0 win against Bilbao to continue an outstanding campaign which has seen Málaga concede just 21 goals thus far, the best record in la Primera. “It had to be seen to be believed” was the praise from AS on the goalkeeper’s “recital” which had the Spanish crowd chanting for Willy’s instant call up to his national side.
Roberto SoldadoA first league goal in five games for the Valencia forward in the 2-0 victory over Mallorca keeps the chase for fourth spot ticking along nicely. It also maintained a still fragile truce with the Mestalla massive, whose ire is still focussed on club president Manuel Llorente.
Carlos VelaThe former Arsenal striker popped in his ninth league goal of the season in Real Sociedad's 1-1 draw against visiting Levante. The Mexican also got his sixth opponent sent off in the current campaign, after a bit of a hack from Nikos Karabelas. In fact, la Real have now faced teams down to ten men for eight matches in a row which might help explain splendid recent form from the Basque outfit.
LevanteThe Valencia side have still got a bit of a way to go before they're safe, with eight or nine more points needed before the end of the season. However the gritty away point at Real Sociedad is a handy one after Thursday night’s impressive 3-0 victory over Olympiakos in Europe.
Gary MedelLLL would normally scoff at a footballer with the nickname ‘the Pitbull’, but the blog certainly wouldn’t do that to Medel. The Sevilla midfielder is a remarkably terrifying presence, despite being quite a diddy little fella. Medel popped up with a brace in the 3-1 win against visiting Deportivo on Friday night and is one of a number of footballers such as Ivan Rakitic, Jesús Navas and Geoffrey Kondogbia who are improving under Unai Emery.
Luis GarcíaThe comfy home win over Celta Vigo keeps Getafe where they feel most happy and snug - eleventh. “We can’t talk about Europe, but we are 12 points from the drop, which is a big distance. In fact we are the second best Getafe in history at this stage, drawing with Míchel’s team,” was the fairly impressive revelation from manager, Luis García.
EspanyolThe 1-0 victory over Betis in Cornella makes it five wins from five at the stadium and even gives the Pericos a faint whiff of European qualification. This is quite incredible considering the mess the club found itself in before Javier Aguirre arrived. “We will suffer until 42 points and safety,” promised the Mexican coach.
GranadaFor the third game in a row under Lucas Alcaraz, Granada put in a strong performance. Ultimately, it was Leo Messi who made the difference between the two sides. “The team did better than against Madrid,” opined Alcaraz. “They forced Barça to the limit,” added the Granada boss on a side that were beating the league leaders for 25 minutes, which is worth about 85 minutes in la Liga with a dog years system applicable to matches against the Catalan club these days.
OsasunaSaturday's 1-0 in over Real Zaragoza was a wonderfully predictable result from Osasuna, who scored early doors - a header from a cross, of course - and hung on in there. The Pamplona club have now successive one-goal home victories over three relegation rivals in the form of Deportivo, Celta Vigo and Zaragoza. “We wanted the results that we got,” chuffed José Luis Mendilibar. “Some will say: I don’t like the way that Osasuna play, but we compete well.”
Sergio RamosTwo yellows in 45 seconds saw a short shift at the office for the Madrid defender. Ramos was booked for bit of a shove and then a handball - something refs love punishing heavily in Spain, whether it’s intentional or not. “It’s easy to send off Sergio Ramos,” complained the man himself, having earlier scored Madrid's second goal of a 2-0 victory. “Spanish football deserves good refereeing.”
BetisA worrying slide continues for the Sevilla side, with the 1-0 loss at Espanyol the team’s fifth straight match without a win and fourth without a goal. “I was expecting more from my side,” lamented Pepe Mel.
Athletic Bilbao“We are having a negative campaign,” was the astute observation of Marcelo Bielsa, whose side are getting sucked towards the relegation zone after two straight defeats 'to nil'. Not even Gorka being replaced between the sticks by back-up Raúl made any difference.
ZaragozaSuspensions and injuries saw Zaragoza continue their rotten run with a 1-0 defeat at Osasuna. Their last league win was in the match before the winter break, and this joyless run sees the team eking down towards the relegation zone. “We have more desire than ever to get back to training on Monday and prepare for a difficult match against Valencia,” announced an enthused Manolo Jiménez, who desperately needs to find players who can deliver who aren’t Helder Postiga.
Celta VigoLike their Galician companions, Celta Vigo are very much whiffing of relegation. The 3-1 defeat to Getafe was pretty comprehensive and owed a great deal to dithering defending at the back at not going on up front. The Coliseum defeat leaves Celta with just a single win in 13 away games. Next week’s home clash against Granada is a bit of a whopper for the future of the club.At the time of writing, reports suggest Celta boss Paco Herrera may be about to get the sack, despite a lot of support from his bosses in recent weeks.Regardless of his own future, Herrera had strong words for striker Iago Aspas, who has not scored in six league matches now and was taken off 15 minutes into the second half. “He hasn’t been the player he was for the past two years for a few games now,” lamented the Celta boss on a footballer who has been linked with a move away from the club. “He’s not with the club, he’s not on planet Earth, he’s up in the clouds.”
MallorcaOne win, 19 games. That pretty much says it all for Mallorca who’ve not had any kind of reaction since the arrival of Gregorio Manzano in terms of results.
Deportivo“Different coach, same mistakes,” bemoaned Marca in the paper’s match report after the 3-1 defeat to Sevilla. “That’s what happens when another team is better than yours,” said manager number three of the season, Fernando Vázquez. Deportivo have now conceded 54 goals, and lost five consecutive league games, the worst record since 1964/65 campaign. Depor have never lost six in a row.
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