Good Day, Bad Day: Proud Pep, imperious Puyol & Ronaldo's big fat zero
Pep GuardiolaAnother trip to the Santiago Bernabeu for the BarÃÂ§a boss and yet another triumph for his Dream Boys, with Guardiola yet to be defeated as a manager in the heart of Mordor. After the game, struggling with a heavy cold, Guardiola praised his players for sticking with their passing principles and staying patient, despite enduring an opening 20 minutes in which little went right for the visitors. Guardiola made special mention of VÃÂctor ValdÃÂ©s after the game, a goalkeeper who had a howler in the opening seconds with a poorly-aimed pass but still continued to play short balls, despite the obvious knock to his confidence and the testing, slippery conditions. BarÃÂ§a are still too flakey away from home in smaller games to be completely confident of another league title win this season, but this pegging back of Madrid in the Bernabeu certainly didnÃ¢ÂÂt do their chances any harm.
Carles PuyolAbsolutely magnificent at centre-back and right-back, the two positions the Barcelona defender played in on Saturday night. The man of the match for LLL by some measure.
LevanteWhat a team! What players! What a story! What a win over Sevilla, technically rivals for a Champions League spot this season given Levante are in fourth with a five point gap over their Andalusian opponents. The 1-0 victory stemmed from a defensive calamity for Sevilla when, during a goalmouth scramble, Javi Varas couldnÃ¢ÂÂt pick the ball up due to a back pass, something Alvaro Negredo failed to realise, leaving the ball sitting on the goal-line for Nano to welly home. Levante have surely passed the Ã¢ÂÂneed 42 points to surviveÃ¢ÂÂ mark and must be thinking of the mid-50 region, which could see a top six finish, especially as the likes of Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and MÃÂ¡laga are dreadfully inconsistent this season.The spirit in the camp of the Valencia side is summed up by midfielder, Iborra, whose new born baby, Alma, died just days before the game. The footballer told his manager he was ready to play on Saturday, and play he did, coming on with nearly half an hour to go before later leaving the pitch in tears at fulltime. Ã¢ÂÂHis professionalism came above everything else,Ã¢ÂÂ said Levante manager, Juan Ignacio MartÃÂnez.
OsasunaAnother tough as old boots performance from Osasuna produces a point at MÃÂ¡laga and keeps Osasuna in seventh.
EspanyolEver dependable AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid turned up at Cornella on Sunday night and rolled over for their tummies to be tickled by Espanyol in a 4-1 defeat. Paul from Barcelona was there to see what happened...
Well, who saw that coming? The team line-ups revealed that Alvaro had been dropped to the bench and Rui Fonte and Thievy were starting for Espanyol and AtlÃÂ©ticoÃ¢ÂÂs line-up made you think, Ã¢ÂÂI thought they had more well-known players than that.Ã¢ÂÂAtlÃÂ©tico started brightly, then the roof caved in. A poor clearance from Courtois was won by Romaric (note to Espanyol : stop faffing about and sign him) went to VerdÃÂº, who out of nothing, placed a long distance shot into the bottom corner. Four minutes - 1-0. Two minutes later VerdÃÂº ran about 40 metres, beat two defenders and the goalie - 2-0.Then the goal of the match for me, Romaric ran at the Ã¢ÂÂdefenceÃ¢ÂÂ played a one-two and hammered it across the keeper into the far corner - 3-0.Espanyol were totally dominant but we were expecting Hurricane AtlÃÂ©tico in the second half. We got light-breeze AtlÃÂ©tico. A mazy run from the hard-working Sergio GarcÃÂa bought EspanyolÃ¢ÂÂs fourth. In the end, a fab performance from an Espanyol team missing four regulars and an awful performance from a team missing a bloke who still has Sevilla curtains in his bedroom. Lovely AtlÃÂ©tico fans, the only ones in the league who donÃ¢ÂÂt applaud along with the Jarque tribute, by the way, had left way before the end.Paul, Barcelona
MallorcaThe 1-0 victory at Zaragoza was the sideÃ¢ÂÂs first away win in nine months.
RubÃÂ©n CastroTwo injury time goals for the Betis striker against Valencia gave his team their first win since dinosaurs walked the earth. Ã¢ÂÂWe went out against the third best team in the league without fear, attacking and we were better,Ã¢ÂÂ said coach Pepe Mel, whose Betis side have perked up considerably in the past couple of games to put the breaks on a slide towards the bottom of the table.
GetafeLLL had the pleasure of attending a truly dreadful match between Getafe and Granada in the Coliseum that should have been a goalless draw had it not been for a Javi Casquero shot taking a deflection of a visiting player and going in for a 1-0 win for the home team. Even the ever cheerful Getafe coach, Luis GarcÃÂa, was happy to admit that the game was a bit of a stinker when it was all done and dusted.
Nacho NovoTwo goals in one game. Miraculous stuff from the former Rangers man in SportingÃ¢ÂÂs 3-1 win over Rayo, though the victory wasn't enough to drag the Asturian side out of the relegation zone thanks to a dreadful start to the season.
Cristiano RonaldoIt's hard not to feel a tad sorry for the rich, talented, supermodel-bothering billionaire, who is getting such a battering from the Madrid fans and press that youÃ¢ÂÂd thought heÃ¢ÂÂd walked out onto the Santiago Bernabeu pitch for the ClÃÂ¡sico and peed on a picture of Alfredo di Stefano. Heck, Marca even gave the footballer zero points from three in the paperÃ¢ÂÂs post match ratings. RonaldoÃ¢ÂÂs two huge misses and continued failures against Barcelona - Copa del Rey final aside - have given more ammunition to his knockers, who feel that despite the hundreds of goals whacked in against Osasuna, Ronaldo fails to deliver when it counts. Even some of RonaldoÃ¢ÂÂs teammates have waded in to defend the forward with Iker Casillas saying that Ã¢ÂÂCris has given us a lot of goals and titles (one anyway - LLL), itÃ¢ÂÂs not fair to doubt him now.Ã¢ÂÂ
JosÃÂ© Mourinho It was praiseworthy of Mourinho to have faith in the attacking aspects of his team, with the Madrid manager choosing to play the formidable front four that had contributed to 15 straight wins, rather than a tough tackling trio in midfield. In doing so, the Madrid manager added to what was a surprisingly entertaining game, compared to recent encounters. But Mourinho will have to go back to the drawing board once again in the challenge of properly bringing down Barcelona.
Unai EmeryLooked quite, quite forlorn after ValenciaÃ¢ÂÂs incredibly late defeat to Betis on Saturday. For a while it looked like a miserable loss to Chelsea was going to be softened a tad by a hard-fought intense 1-0 victory away at Betis. That was certainly the case at 90 minutes before RubÃÂ©n Castro popped up with a brace. Ã¢ÂÂVictories and defeats come from detailsÃ¢ÂÂ claimed the Valencia boss, using a bit of the vibe that Mourinho was to dip into after his own Ã¢ÂÂdetailsÃ¢ÂÂ defeat to Barcelona, a couple of hours later.
SevillaA decent win over Getafe on Monday gave the impression that Sevilla had turned a bit of a corner. But MarcelinoÃ¢ÂÂs men played like porridge on Saturday in the 1-0 defeat to Levante with the Sevilla coach lamenting his sideÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂcomedy goalÃ¢ÂÂ that was conceded.
MÃÂ¡laga A draw at home against Osasuna leaves MÃÂ¡laga in sixth and failing to take advantage of another slip up from Sevilla or gain ground on Levante in fourth. With the continuing disasters that Villarreal and AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid are this season, MÃÂ¡laga are missing out on a fine chance to grab a Champions League place.
Athletic BilbaoAnother slip-up at home for Athletic with a late goal conceded against Racing Santander leaves the Basque team with the same number of points as AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid. Not a lot of people know that.
AtlÃÂ©tico MadridWhere to start...? With the defence, probably, who were stunningly awful in the four goals scored by Espanyol. Even by AtlÃÂ©ticoÃ¢ÂÂs terrible standards. The 4-1 loss to the Pericos sees the Rojiblancos without an away win in la Liga this season, with the fans utterly miserable and coach Gregorio Manzano very, very close to the sack.
Rayo VallecanoDefensive disasters cost Rayo a 3-1 defeat at home in Vallecas to Sporting. SundayÃ¢ÂÂs loss sees the side with four defeats in row to drop them down towards the relegation zone. Unfortunately thereÃ¢ÂÂs no time to move back up the table again before the winter break as Rayo have already played - so to speak - next weekÃ¢ÂÂs game - the 4-0 defeat to Barcelona.
VillarrealYet another bad day for Villarreal, with a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad in El Madrigal leaving the side out of the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Zaragoza Bottom-of-table and set to stay there for a while after a home defeat to Mallorca. Ã¢ÂÂA dead team with no soulÃ¢ÂÂ write Marca on a Zaragoza outfit whose owner and president, Agapito Iglesias, simply couldnÃ¢ÂÂt be more unpopular if he tried. Which is something heÃ¢ÂÂll probably look to do this week.