FFT.com's Spanish expert Tim Stannard reflects on a goal-infested weekend in Spain's top flight...
We should just enjoy La Liga's goaly weekend
Thirty-nine goals in nine games could be indicative of a thrilling, barnstorming league where attack, attack, attack and then a bit more attack rules. Or it could mean defences are a bit rubbish. Throw in the fact that the top four scored 19 goals without a single reply from their respective opponents, and it is quite the ethical sporting conundrum. For the moment, though, LLL says try not to worry too much and simply enjoy the poaching madness.
Barcelona showed what can be done with a half-billion budget
Granada boss Lucas Alcaraz was irked over talk of how poor, downtrodden Barcelona would be limping through Saturday’s Camp Nou clash against his side without Leo Messi and Víctor Valdés in the starting line-up.
The Catalan soldiers were still able to struggle through, with Neymar, Alexis Sánchez, Pedro, Cesc Fabregas and Andrés Iniesta leading the line in a comprehensive 4-0 win that certainly wasn't boring and oh-so predictable at all. That’s what Tata Martino claimed after the match anyway, with the Argentine boss retorting: “I think people had more fun than you think.” Hmm.
Real Madrid have suddenly become Spanish
A familiar gripe for supporters of the Santiago Bernabéu club is that the team aren't Spanish enough, especially in comparison with home-grown, fruit-smelling, dainty Barcelona. Well, poo-sticks to the notion of Madrid being stuffed with money-grabbing mercenaries from foreign climes - eight of the XI that finished Saturday’s 5-0 win at Almería were as Spanish as those who complain about having to get up before 11 in the morning. Only Gareth Bale, Casemiro and Pepe were those funny-talking foreigners.
The Weekend's Results
- Real Valladolid 0-1 Osasuna
- Barcelona 4-0 Granada
- Real Sociedad 4-3 Celta Vigo
- Almeria 0-5 Real Madrid
- Atletico Madrid 7-0 Getafe
- Levante 0-3 Villarreal
- Rayo Vallecano 1-4 Espanyol
- Elche 2-1 Valencia
- Sevilla 4-0 Real Betis
Aside from that, there wasn't too much to see in Andalusia other than another perfunctory win for a team stuffed to the brim with talent. And they did it with Cristiano Ronaldo off the pitch for half an hour with a poorly leg.
Raul García is finally starting to feel the love
While the likes of Diego Costa, Koke and Thibaut Courtois have rightfully hogged the headlines in recent months thanks to their sterling success with Atlético Madrid, long-time blog favourite García goes largely unmentioned, despite being a tremendously effective and versatile squad player for Diego Simeone.
The former Osasuna man can play up-front, as a second striker or a midfielder, and finally felt the Vicente Calderón love for his usefulness after leading the way in a whopping 7-0 victory over a hopeless Getafe on Saturday night. The brace, in a clash that had opposition boss Luis García grumbling that La Liga was boring, extended the Rojiblancos man's tally to seven for the season in Spain and the Champions League. Hurrah!
Carlos Vela found his shooting boots
LLL has always liked the concept of players possessing boots for different occasions, so it is running with the idea that the Mexican has footwear especially made for scoring goals and nothing else. They'd been in mothballs for a while, though, Vela having failed to find the back of the net for the past 11 La Liga rounds.
However, the boots were back for a mad old match against Celta Vigo, where the former Arsenal man’s four goals brought La Real back from 3-1 down to win 4-3. “It’s difficult to repeat a game like that,” admitted the 24-year-old, who may well fancy returning to the international fold now Mexico's World Cup qualification has been confirmed.
Villarreal still have juice without Giovani
Although given a helping hand by the soft early sending off of airborne Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas - and given a penalty to boot - Villarreal came away with a comfortable 3-0 victory against a normally gritty home side thanks to Ikechukwu Uche's brace.
In doing so, the Yellow Submarine proved they could carry on without Giovani dos Santos up front, who missed the affair in Valencia. “His colleagues showed that the collective talent does not end with the Mexican,” wrote Alfredo Matillo in AS, on a team still looking solid in fourth with an impressive 27 points.
Sorry Betis have only themselves to blame
Conceding in the second minute probably wasn’t the start Pepe Mel was looking for in the Sevilla derby. The Betis boss wouldn’t have been too chirpy about the manner of the first goal either, with Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca lurking menacingly off the shoulder of right-back Juanfran a good 15 seconds before eventually firing home to kick off a comprehensive 4-0 win.
“We spent five days getting ready for nothing,” snapped a furious Mel, who also saw defender Paulo Santos sent off for two “childish” yellow cards. “He’s a footballer who is old enough and has enough experience to know that he made a mistake,” added under-pressure Pepe, who is having a miserable time of it with his club bottom of the table.
Valencia are capable of digging even deeper
Just when you think things can only get better for Valencia, they get worse. The problems they have in Mestalla were transferred to Elche on Sunday evening with a 2-1 defeat that piles yet more pressure on manager Miroslav Djukic, who boldly claimed that the performance was “the best of the season” due to the number of chances created, but ultimately missed. “We have to improve our concentration in defence,” noted the Serbian ahead of a tough trip to Swansea on Thursday.
Osasuna showed why they will always stay up
Aside from a golden spell under Javier Aguirre, much of Osasuna’s 14-year tenure in La Primera has been spent sweating, swearing and struggling against the financial reality of having no cash and therefore facing relegation on an annual basis. However, Friday’s 1-0 win at Valladolid was typical from the Pamplona club and shows why they keep on surviving. The victory was scrappy and hoofy but produced a valuable win which owed itself to a big cross into the box and converted header to keep them out of the doo-doo for another week. Classic stuff.
Sergio García's beautiful beard deserves success
Wonderfully planned and executed. That was the facial hair story of Espanyol man García, whose hat-trick gave the Pericos a much-needed win against Rayo Vallecano. The goals themselves were slightly cheaty in that two of them came from immensely soft penalties in the 4-1 victory where Rayo were down to 10 men after 30 minutes.