Can Madrid bounce back from Barça battering?

Marca’s somewhat hopeful - perhaps ludicrous - suggestion that the oh-so prolific Riki!!! would continue his stunning run of not scoring many goals in quite a lot of games came to nothing in the Camp Nou.

With eight shots from Barcelona in the opening 23 minutes, Deportivo were down and out in the Catalan capital before the game had barely begun and were sent back to Galicia to have a long, hard look at themselves with the local press purring over Pedro’s rather nifty 50-yard effort from a poor clearance from Depor keeper, Daniel Aranzubia.

“Divine!” sighed the front cover of Mundo Deportivo, with Sport hailing the Canary Islander as ‘San Pedrito’.

Inside, Josep María Casanovas achieves never before seen levels of smugness over the 3-0 win that puts Barcelona six points ahead of dastardly Real Madrid.

“It was half an hour of cinema that should be taught in schools. Barcelona played as if the goal-scorer wasn’t important,” gushed the Catalan columnist.

Modest Pedro understates the distance he scored from...

The football news was not so positive for the second club in Spain’s second city with Espanyol crashing to a 3-1 defeat away at Santander.

Racing made their fans giddy with goose bumps after they had suffered five home matches without a seeing a goal by producing three of ‘em in El Sardinero, although only the last one was a proper effort with Mohamed Tchité scoring two penalties beforehand.

Mallorca were robbed blind in their game in La Romareda with the linesman inexplicably ruling out an Aritz Aduriz header that would have put the visitors 2-1 up against Zaragoza and given them a more than handy advantage in fourth spot.

Instead, the result was a less impressive 1-1 draw but it still sees Gregorio Manzano’s marvellous men with a one point lead over fifth-placed Sevilla.

Atlético Madrid did what Atlético Madrid do, with a highly-amusing 2-1 home defeat to bottom of the table, Xerez. However, the Rojiblanco fans seemed to have an inkling of what was coming - like animals sensing earthquakes - and stayed away from the game in their droves with just 22,000 turning up at the Vicente Calderón.

After the game, Atleti coach Quique Sánchez-Flores was in self-flagellation mode by confessing that he was entirely to blame for the defeat. “The substitutions, the formation. I like to think that it was a personal error and not a collective one,” square-jawed the heroic Quique.

Quique also claimed to be the Wembley Stadium groundsman

Meanwhile, the message from the Xerez camp was that their valiant victory over Atleti was all too predictable. “We knew that Atlético are inconsistent, they can play very good games and those that are not so good,” smirked midfielder, Emiliano Armenteros.

Osasuna drew 2-2 against Cheating Málaga in a game that saw just the one sending off for the Andalusian side but should have contained a good 10.

The extent of the general thuggery of Málaga was demonstrated when even the hard-bitten, violence-loving Pamplonan faithful started waving handkerchieves at the referee for not taking stronger action against the ankle-smashing visitors from down south.

The final two ties are being played on Thursday night start with Real Madrid travelling to Almería, a ground where they have yet to win - although they have only had two goes at it, to be fair.

Marca have begun their normal ‘destabilise the opposition on behalf of Madrid’ phase - done for previous big clashes with Andrés Iniesta, Diego Perotti, Jesús Navas and Kun Agüero - by claiming all week that David Silva is all set to join the Champions League chumps before the World Cup.

"Nooooo, Mummy - please don't make me join those losers!"

But they are having to balance the notion that Sunday’s clash with Valencia may not matter at all, unless Madrid can squeeze past a feisty Almería at eight and keep the gap at Barcelona to three points.

“Madrid have to show that they have pride,” demands the paper’s editorial, on Thursday.

The final game kicking off at 10 could be a tasty one indeed, with Athletic Bilbao in Mestalla to take on Valencia, in a match that could see the Basque club just one point from the Champions League places should they win.

And judging by the amount of iffy penalties Athletic have been given, this season, there’s a good chance that this is exactly where they’ll end up as the round comes to a contented close.

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