Good Day, Bad Day: Piqué has a pop and Vela sees a ghost

Good Day

Gonzalo HiguaínCriticised in some quarters for failing to deliver against Rayo last week in place of the injured Karim Benzema, the Argentinean striker was under pressure to pull out a few goals against Espanyol, although the forward doesn’t have anything to prove in LLL’s eyes and should probably head to a club that appreciates him a bit more. The fact that Higuaín has scored 16 goals in just 11 starts during the current campaign should certainly act as a sweetener. But Higuaín quite likes banging in goals against Espanyol and knocked in a couple more to add to the hat-trick in Cornella earlier this season in a very run-of-the-mill 5-0 victory that has Marca and AS gasping about goal fiestas as opposed to bemoaning utterly hapless opposition in Real Madrid’s home, once again.

Seydou KeitaA lovely strike with the scores against Sporting level at 1-1 left the midfielder with the praise of Pep Guardiola ringing in his ears after Saturday’s 3-1 victory at the Camp Nou. “One of the best things I’ve experienced since I’ve been Barça coach is being able to know (Keita),” said the Catalan coach proudly, before being asked a bunch of questions about referees and conspiracies. Saturday’s clash without the suspended Leo Messi against a tough-to-break-down Sporting wasn’t the most convincing of displays, but that doesn’t really matter really considering Barça won in the end and the league title is long gone, anyway.

ValenciaLos Che grabbed an early 1-0 lead against Granada thanks to the impressive-this-season Sofiane Feghouli and then merely hung on to it. A perfect match for a late afternoon Sunday nap.

Markel SusaetaLLL suspected Athletic would be a tad distracted by Thursday’s Europa League clash with Manchester United and blow this game completely. Not so, thanks to a couple of efforts from Markel Susaeta, who is thriving under Marcelo Bielsa, scoring three in the team’s last two league games. LLL is now dangerously excited about this week’s Old Trafford match.

MálagaFor one night Málaga were in the Champions League places. That was until Athletic nabbed fourth spot a day later. For once, Manuel Pellegrini’s men managed to do something they have struggled to do all year - put together back-to-back wins. The double against Zaragoza and Getafe was just third time the team has managed it. Málaga were 1-0 down in the game before three screamers from outside of the box gave the southern side all three points to take off a little bit of the pressure that had building on the club with just the team’s third away win of the season.

MichuTwo more strikes in contributing to a remarkable comeback for Rayo Vallecano from two goals down against Racing makes the forward (midfielder technically) the equal top-scoring Spaniard in la Primera, tied with Fernando Llorente and one more than current flavour of the month, Roberto Soldado. “I never saw this game as lost,” claimed Rayo boss, José Ramón Sandoval, on a victory that moves the Madrid club into eighth place. “Rayo never give up.”

Atlético MadridOnly just in this particular section due to LLL feeling very mellow on this pleasant Monday. The Rojiblancos are now without a win in the league in five matches after Saturday night’s 1-1 draw at Sevilla, but it was probably a decent one-off result as Atlético were without Falcao, Diego and Arda for the clash. That was certainly what Diego Simeone appeared to feel as he was caught by TV cameras fist-pumping away (in the style of Tim Henman, not Ever Banega) going down the tunnel after the clash. Atlético are still four points off the Champions League places, so expect a great deal of “we have 13, 12, 11 finals left,” from the players over the next few weeks.

Manolo JiménezThe Zaragoza coach warned there could be a repeat of his giant strop from last week when he stormed out of a press conference feeling “ashamed” of his team if things weren’t any better against Villarreal on Saturday. That was very much on the cards with three minutes to go and the home team 1-0 down. But then Villarreal nodded off and Zaragoza popped up with a quickfire double to give the bottom-of-the-table side just their fourth win of the season. “I’m proud of the attitude they showed,” beamed Manolo enjoying a very different mood time time around.

Bad Day

Gerard PiquéNot just a bad day, but a bad season for Piqué, who has fallen out of favour with Pep Guardiola due to the kind of dreadful display seen last month at Osasuna. Matters got worse for the Barça defender with a red card in this weekend's home win over Sporting, with the World Cup winner then ranting against the referee to the media. This rather unwise move may see Piqué in hot water with the FA, and not unsurprisingly so considering the defender said his sending off was “pre-meditated” due to ill-feelings after a complaint to the man-in-the-middle over a penalty not awarded earlier in the match.

EspanyolThe fact Espanyol have only won four league games in the Santiago Bernabeu since the 1928/1929 season probably wasn’t a good omen ahead of Sunday’s match. Nor was the team’s indifferent away form this year. But constantly giving the ball away with sloppy passes hardly helped matters in what was eventually a 5-0 defeat in a game that Espanyol should never have bothered turning up for. “One of the worst matches I’ve experienced,” admitted Espanyol boss, Mauricio Pochettino after the game.

Real SociedadAt 1-0 down, Real Sociedad had a perfectly good ‘ghost goal’ from Carlos Vela ruled out by the referee when Gorka Iraizoz scooped the ball back from the inside of the goal. Yet they have refused to use the decision as an excuse for Sunday’s derby defeat - something that two other clubs in particular (and their fanboys in the media) may have done in the same situation. “We didn’t lose because of the referee,” noted la Real boss, Philippe Montanier.

GetafeThree long distance efforts from Málaga spelled defeat for Getafe at the Coliseum, and continued a run of five league games without a win. At the end of January there was a sniff of a chance of a push for the European places in the air in Getafe aside from the smell of car fumes. Now Getafe are just five points from the drop zone and facing a SIX POINTER against Villarreal, next weekend.

Villarreal'Awful, decent, awful, decent' goes Villarreal’s form these days. So it was no surprise that ‘awful’ was back again this weekend, with a 2-1 defeat at Zaragoza.

Racing SantanderBeing down for ten men for 87 minutes of the game against Rayo - goalkeeper Toño quite rightly sent off for reckless challenge - didn’t help Racing’s cause, but the team probably shouldn’t have blown a two goal lead with the bus-parking opportunities that this affords. Racing still in the relegation zone and now without a win in seven.