Good Day, Bad Day – Round 27

GOOD DAY

Leo MessiZaragoza manager José Maria Gay claimed after Sunday’s game that when his side forced Messi out onto Barcelona’s right wing, they were able to deny the Argentinian both space and opportunities.

A year ago, that might have been enough to lock Messi out of Sunday’s encounter, as Chelsea managed in their Champions League semi-finals last season. But Messi has developed his game a whopping amount over the past 12 months, meaning than the traditional triple-marking tactics so loved by opponents no longer work. 

The Barcelona player’s development started with a new-found fondness for playing in the centre, born during the 6-2 win over Real Madrid last season, and this partly explains the increasing number of headed goals the striker is now scoring.

Now Messi is popping up on what had been fairly foreign shores – the left flank – and that’s where his stupendous solo effort on Sunday came from.

The finest player of his generation has added whole new facets to his football. Everyone who has to stop him must now do the same.

Rafa van der VaartThe Madrid player’s goal against Sporting may have been “a little bit handball” as he confessed, but the Dutchman is continuing to prove that he is currently 1001 times better than Kaká, the player he is in direct competition with in Real’s starting line-up.

The question is what will happen when the Brazilian recovers from his latest groin concerns, potentially next Sunday against Atlético. Knowing Florentino Pérez’s preference for famous faces over footballers, Van der Vaart will no doubt be going straight back to the bench, despite two goals and an assist in the last three league games.

Saturday’s match against Sporting was a blooming awful one for Real Madrid, especially in the first half, when the home side were befuddled by visitors who chose to play four up front.

However, in Marca’s world the victory was outstanding. In their ‘alternative’ league table judged on their interpretation of refereeing events, the side are still five points clear of Barcelona despite Van der Vaart’s equalising handball effort, which clearly had no influence on the result, say the paper.

ValenciaWith six defenders missing - mainly due to most of them being indisciplined, hoofing loons on permanent suspensions - Valencia had to rely on their Mata-Silva-Villa strike-force for three points against Almería, which had reeked of another home disaster before kick-off. 

And two of that trio came through to keep Valencia well in the hunt for the title – as long as both Barcelona and Real Madrid lose six of their remaining 11 matches and Valencia win all theirs.

XerezNow showing true title-winning form with six goals scored and two wins from three, the most recent of which being Saturday’s 2-1 thrashing of Tenerife.

MallorcaShould really be hanging their heads in shame over how good they were on Sunday - if greatly assisted by Atlético’s impotence - compared to how blooming useless the performance was in the clash that LLL caught against Getafe a week ago.

But that's being more than a little mean to a team that is now - and what a wonderful advert for la Liga (to be interpreted how you will) - in the Champions League places after their 4-1 rogering of the Rojiblancos.

EspanyolWith Sevilla doing a decent impression of Espanyol on their travels this season in Saturday night’s clash, it was a very happy day for Perico Paul from Barcelona...

“Best performance of the season to beat and outplay Sevilla. Chica was excellent, as was Nico Pareja and two-goal Osvaldo. He's not the greatest but he's a handful and causes problems. Sign him up, please.

"Regular readers will know how much I despise the synchronised diving team that Sevilla include in their ranks so here's a cheat update. Jesus Navas dived before he'd even touched the ball, elbowed an Espanyol player in the face and got injured, you guessed it, diving. He was also wearing lilac boots. You read that right.

"Diego Capel did nothing and then he went off. He didn't look injured, just disinterested.

"About 150 Sevilla fans present and the 16th minute and 21st minute tributes to Antonio Puerta and Dani Jarque were beautifully observed by both sets of fans.  Very poignant moments.

"This being Espanyol, there is always a downside – in this case the out-for-the-season injury to Javi Marquez, our best player this year. This kid will go far.

"The two matches coming up will define the rest of the season for us. Valladolid away on Wednesday and Sporting at home next Sunday.”

-- Paul, Barcelona

OnésimoThe Valladolid coach may do more than a decent impression of the kind of grumpy old sod who hangs about in the local bar muttering and ranting to himself, but he somehow dragged a win out of his players after seven attempts, to give the third-from-bottom side their first victory in 12.

BahaMálaga's moody Moroccan had been a little quiet this season, with just two goals scored before Sunday’s match. But thanks to Villarreal’s snooty aversion to defending, Baha was able to bag a brace to give Málaga a 2-0 win - and look fairly indifferent about it, in the process. “I prefer to celebrate goals in private with my family,” sniffed the striker.

Racing SantanderRacing’s victory at Osasuna was the side’s fifth in a row in Pamplona but more importantly just the first in their last eight games. The Cantabrian team now sit a little more comfortably at seven points clear of the drop zone, but could still do with Sergio Canales popping up with a goal some time soon.

BAD DAY

Cristiano RonaldoAt his petulant, whining, strolling back onside at the speed of a tortoise, gesticulating worst on Saturday night.

The big question in the Barcelona press on Monday is whether Ronaldo would have offered the penalty to a team-mate as Leo Messi did to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But everyone already knows the answer to that.

According to the Madridista press, when Ronaldo repeatedly blasts the ball over the bar with preening pot-shots – as he did against Sporting – it's because he's a winner. When Higuaín fails to pass, it’s because he is selfish.

Zlatan IbrahimovicRemembering the lessons of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp at Arsenal and the perils of writing off strikers too soon, LLL has been loathe to put the boot into the Barcelona striker - mainly because it is scared he will be reading and try and find the cowering, cowardly blog.

But it must be said that Barcelona’s Swedish striker is having an absolute 'mare this season needed Leo Messi’s charitable scraps to get onto the score sheet against Zaragoza.

GutiStrutted past the blog in the Bernabeu mixed zone on Saturday night clad in a blue tartan suit and waistcoat considerably more noticeable than anything the midfielder did in his second-half cameo against Sporting.

Luis PereaOh, this was funny. A classic display of defending from arguably the worst player on the planet. The Atlético stopper played the fullest of roles in the 4-1 defeat to Mallorca by losing his man for the first goal and then twice more before Víctor grabbed the opener.

Not content with that, Perea then failed to notice Aritz Aduriz in the box for Mallorca’s second and finished a fine day’s work with an own goal to boot. 

Sevilla Enough words have been wasted on this shameful shower already this season.

VillarrealAnd the same goes for Villarreal, too.

Tenerife It’s a stunning record of no wins, two draws and 11 defeats for Tenerife now on their travels, after a splendid 2-1 defeat against a 10-man, bottom-of-the-table Xerez.

Getafe’s defendersFull-back David Cortés was kicked full in the nuts by the increasingly testy Pablo Orbaiz, whilst Miguel Torres was shown red after bringing down Fernando Llorente, who then converted his penalty in the 2-2 draw.

However, it wasn’t all bad for Torres who is now able to go home to new fling and Google-magnet Spanish TV presenter Cristina Pedroche, proving that there really, really isn't any justice in the world.

DeportivoOne can only pluck heartstrings and ooze sympathy for the Deportivo defence, who know that any goals conceded mean points will be dropped, due to their forward line being a giant vacuum called ‘b*gger all’.

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