Good Day, Bad Day: Life-affirming Levante & a spot of bother for Barca

Good Day

LevanteLa Liga Loca suspected rather gloomily that Levante might choke when presented with the opportunity to move to the top of the table during Sunday’s late game against Villarreal. This was partly because all sense of spirit and good will had been sucked from the blog during Atlético’s 1-1 draw against Mallorca, but also due to the simple fact that winning six games in a row, which is what Levante needed to achieve to move to the summit, is more than challenging for any team, never mind one with the paltry resources of the Valencia-based club. But Levante came though and were magnificent in the team’s 3-0 win over Villarreal: precise, energetic, confident and lethal. In fact everything that the El Madrigal side weren’t. Levante moved to the top for the first time in the club’s 102 year history and fully deserved it, too.

José MourinhoTowards the end of Real Madrid’s 4-0 win over Málaga, José Mourinho was slumped back in his seat watching the the final minutes, chatting and chuckling to his cronies. And as well as he should, as a blistering first half from his side blew Málaga away, with a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo and a strike from Gonzalo Higuaín leaving the match all but won after 45 minutes. “In the first half it seemed that Málaga were not so good, but that was due to us,” maintained Mourinho, who claimed he didn’t mind the insults from the crowd or the half-nibbled seeds being chucked in his direction by the home fans. “My goalkeeper coach ate them all,” revealed the chirpy, cheeky chappy.

Angel di MaríaThere are many aspects of the Argentinean's play that leave LLL with a very squirmy face indeed. It's the same face the blog makes when being confronted by any kind of seafood. The outrageous diving and cheating are just two of those features. But we will admit that Di María can certainly play a bit when he wants to. Real Madrid only improved against Betis last weekend when the winger was introduced in the second half, providing some much-needed width and two assists for Gonzalo Higuaín. Di Maria popped up with a couple more on Saturday against Málaga to demonstrate that Madrid’s squad is so strong at the moment that Mesut Özil could be left on the bench without anybody really noticing...

Javi VarasThere has been high praise in Spain for the Sevilla keeper following his game-saving performance against Barcelona, during which he pulled off a big save to deny pretty much against each and every member of the opposition, even blocking an injury time penalty from Leo Messi. For some three seasons now, Varas has been behind Andrés Palop, but with Marcelino wanting to freshen up the squad, the former number two goalie has grasped his opportunity to star. The performance against Barcelona was no fluke as the 28-year-old has been solid all season with Sevilla conceding just the single goal in the last five games.

EspanyolBack-to-back 1-0 away wins see the Pericos sneaking into eighth place in the table. “Our rivals are finding it hard to get close to our goal,” revealed the scorer of Espanyol’s winner, Sergio García. “We are working really hard away from home.”

Raul GarcíaThe Osasuna midfielder is now Osasuna’s top scorer with four goals, the last of those coming in a comfortable 3-0 win over Zaragoza. And if anyone had seen Raúl García play for Atlético Madrid over the past few seasons, they’ll know just how mad that scoring statistic sounds.

Iker MuniainA cracking solo effort for the ever-improving wee nipper gave Athletic Bilbao the lead against Valencia in a match that would ultimately end 1-1. 

MallorcaThe football gods continue to be living in Mallorca’s spare bedroom. The Balearic side’s last four goals have all come from the spot. And the last two penalty awards have been as flimsy as you can imagine, with referees blessing Mallorca with two spot-kicks following fairly clear ball-to-hand incidents, the second of which cursed Atlético some twenty seconds into Sunday’s 1-1 bore draw at the Vicente Calderón.

Rayo VallecanoThe mighty Rayo needed their 2-0 win over Betis like they need a fourth side to their stadium. A bright start to the campaign in la Primera had been followed by a run which saw just the single point picked up in four games. Rayo’s win on Sunday came from the penalty spot and a delightful lob from the impressive Alhassane Bangoura, who continues to show why quite a few big cheeses in Europa are interested in the young winger’s signature.

SportingOooh, how Sporting manager Manuel Preciado would have enjoyed that victory. A decent performance - but eventual defeat  - against Sevilla last week showed there were signs of optimism for Sporting ahead of Saturday’s clash against fellow bottom-dwellers, Granada. Although Sporting were gifted the two goals with a horrible performance from opposition keeper, Roberto, the Asturians will take anything these days in what was the side’s first win of the season.

Bad Day

BarcelonaTwo dropped points for Barcelona on Saturday saw Madrid get away with the poor results against Levante and Racing to lead Pep’s Dream Boys by one point in the table. But this must also be balanced with the face that Barcelona have already played Valencia, Atlético Madrid, Villarreal (perhaps not so hard, these days) and Sevilla. Real Madrid have not. LLL thought Barça were just fine on Saturday night and that seems to be the opinion of the local press who have taken the dropped points on the collective, Catalan chin. “The team can’t be criticised,” says Joan Battle in Sport. “They tried from the first minute, dominated the match from beginning to end, never gave up on their style...shot more than 20 times...what more can you ask?” It’s a reaction echoed in Mundo Deportivo with Francesc Aguilar soothing that “this Barça can feel proud of themselves.”

ValenciaSome segments of the Valencia crowd were unhappy with the side before the teamt’s home draw with Athletic Bilbao, so LLL can’t imagine what mood they’ll be in after Los Che only drew their clash against the Basque visitors with late goal from Roberto Soldado.

BetisFour wins in a row for Betis that sent the Andalusian side to the top of the table have now been followed by four defeats. It is the two at home that have been the most costly, and more than a little unlucky. That was certainly case in the 2-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday afternoon. “We are really down as I think it was unfair,” admitted Pepe Mel after the game. But the Betis coach also made the fair point that “we are in the eighth round and seven points from the relegation zone.”

Manuel PellegriniThe chance to stick a barbed one up the jacksie of both the constantly baiting Marca and Pellegrini’s former employers was missed by miles in a match that saw Málaga only start playing during the second half. And only because Real Madrid let them do so by scaling down the intensity a notch or two.

Atlético MadridGregorio Manzano needed a strong start to his spell at the Vicente Calderón with a large section of the Rojiblanco support doubting the laid back manager was what Atlético required when he took over during the summer. This isn’t what Manzano has managed to achieve. A truly dreadful performance in a horrible 1-1 match for Atlético against Mallorca had LLL screaming ‘my eyes! my eyes!’ in the stands had the crowd booing at the final whistle with some chants calling for the sacking of Manzano. Atlético are now without a win in six games in la Liga or Europe. Awful, awful stuff. Awful.  

Real SociedadThree defeats and a goalless draw is the recent record for la Real Sociedad, a team who began the year so brightly but are now fading fast.

VillarrealWhat the Yellow Submarine need is a morale-boosting midweek victory on the road to get them back on track after the Levante loss. What the Yellow Submarine have got though is a potentially messy trip to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday. If Villarreal play like they did on Sunday night, LLL wouldn’t rule out a double-digit defeat.

Getafe A second successive goalless draw for Getafe with Sunday’s 0-0 against Real Sociedad leaves Getafe just one point and one place above the drop zone.

Racing SantanderBottom-of-the table. The only side without a victory. Just four goals scored. Owner gone AWOL and being investigated by Interpol. Falling attendances. “We are not in a good shape, we can’t hide it,” admitted beleaguered Racing coach, Hector Cúper.