Good Day, Bad Day: A Terrific Trio, Delightful Diego & Zaragoza in the Zone

Good Day

Real Madrid La Liga Loca will happily put its neck on the line and say Madrid's 5-1 victory at Osasuna was the best 90 minute league display for Real Madrid this season. It was a game in which the blog genuinely expected the league leaders to struggle, having lost on the same ground last season and failed to secure victory in Pamplona over the past three trips. But as soon as an absolute stormer of a volley from Karim Benzema put Madrid into the lead after six minutes, that was that. Curtains drawn, slippers on, with an ITV costume drama on the television, and a plateful of crumpets to munch on for the rest of the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema & Gonzalo HiguaínThis terrific trio have now scored 99 goals for Real Madrid between them this season. Ronaldo has managed a handy 47, Benzema is on 28 with Higuaín throwing in 24 for the cause. There could be a lot more to come with 12 games potentially left in all competitions.

BarcelonaThe Catalan club were in a tough spot on Saturday. Athletic had rested five first-team players from the starting line-up and had only finished playing their previous game 47 hours before, so expectations were that the visitors would be easy pickings for the Camp Nou club. But as many teams are finding out, Marcelo Bielsa is no mug, and although the team is clearly tired, Athletic are more than capable of making life difficult for opponents if they are in a mood to defend, defend, defend. However, Barça kept plugging away in a match when it might have been very easy to have become frustrated and more than a little panicked.

LevanteThe European football dream - or curse, perhaps - lives on for Levante after a hugely-impressive 1-1 draw in Mestalla against Valencia. Levante are currently in fifth with a nice four point cushion over Atlético Madrid in seventh. And we all know how reliable the Rojiblancos can be when the pressure’s on. 

Atlético MadridAlthough the back four looked a little wobbly from time to time during the first half, Sunday’s midday victory over Getafe by a 3-0 margin was an extremely comfortable one for the Rojiblancos. The effort displayed by the home side only probably reached the four out of ten mark on Diego Simeone’s “Hombres! Courage! Fight! Passion!” scale.

DiegoPerhaps the player the blog is enjoying watching the most this season. Atlético are a completely different team with the brilliant, play-making Brazilian in the line-up.

Real SociedadPhilippe Montanier received some criticism around local parts for allowing his players a beer or two to forget last weekend’s 5-1 defeat to Real Madrid. Looks like some apologies are due to the Frenchman after a sparkling 4-0 win over Rayo on Sunday night.

Carlos VelaAn eternal promise of world football who is now finally starting to deliver. The Mexican’s solo effort from the halfway line topped off what has been a solid spell for the 23-year-old. He has already grabbed five goals in 2012.

Pepe Mel Poor Pepe Mel’s existence at Betis consists of pressure building, building, building before a victory and a footballing trump of relief so powerful it could blow the seats of the club’s stadium into the river. Betis had gone six matches without a win and badly needed Saturday’s rather fortunate victory against Málaga, during which Lady Luck was nuzzled on their shoulders for once, with Betis happily looking down her top. “We didn’t deserve to win but last Sunday we could have put four past Racing,” said Mel recalling last weekend’s disappointing draw. 

GranadaThe Andalusian newbies have moved from LLL’s ‘if Racing/Sporting/Zaragoza don’t go down, then this lot are definitely doomed’ into ‘they might actually stay up through pulling themselves up by their own boot straps rather than other teams being worse’. Granada are now in cluster with the likes of Betis and Villarreal and giving themselves every chance of staying up after beating Racing on Saturday with a last minute penalty.

ZaragozaYikes a’larky! They’ve only gone and done it again. Yet another late effort for Zaragoza against Sporting - the kind seen against Villarreal, Osasuna and Atlético Madrid - lifts the Aragonese team off the bottom of the table for the first time in nearly four months and continues to give Zaragoza the tiniest sniff of a chance of staying up, with the side now on 28 points with eight games left. Next week’s home clash against Barcelona could be a most intriguing one, to say the least.

Bad Day

Unai EmeryThings are not looking too good in the Unai camp, somewhere LLL often likes to reside. The local derby in Mestalla that Valencia really, really, really had to win ended up being a draw and was very close to being a defeat in the final few minutes. Emery’s side have now gone four games at home without a win in the league. However, times might even be getting tougher for the Valencia boss with a Europa League clash due on Thursday - the Spanish side 2-1 down to AZ Alkmaar - and a visit to the Bernabeu on Sunday.

MálagaAfter five wins from the past six games the footballing laws of nature temporarily dropped a piano on Málaga’s hopes of sneaking into third place with a 2-0 home defeat to Betis, who only had a couple of shots on goal in comparison to Málaga who had loads and loads. “The ball didn’t want to go in,” was the lament from Manuel Pellegrini after the clash.

Rayo VallecanoJust two more wins needed for the Vallecas team to stay up, but three defeats in a row - the last of that string being a 4-0 loss at Real Sociedad - suggests that the team is running out of gas and perhaps missing the fear factor of relegation needed to get those final victories.

VillarrealA goalless draw against Espanyol for the side lead by Miguel Angel Lotina. Swap the word ‘Villarreal’ for ‘Deportivo’ and it’s 2011 all over again for a manager caught in another relegation scrap and who will have to be keeping a beady eye on Zaragoza for the rest of the season.

RacingA home defeat to Granada in front of despondent supporters now sees Racing as full-on, brrraaaaains-seeking, intestine-missing, flesh shredding walking dead, wandering around in every decreasing circles before am inevitable bludgeon to the skull with a crow bar called la Segunda. “I’m not desperate, but concerned about finding solutions,” admitted Racing coach, Álvaro Cervera.

SportingJavier Clemente sounded most unhappy after Sporting’s home defeat to Zaragoza, a direct rival for relegation. And when the Sporting boss isn’t boasting, bragging or talking absolute tosh then that’s normally very bad news for the supporters of the team he’s coaching at the time. Clemente said that while the team works hard, is willing and gives everything, what skills they possess in the first place may not be enough to stay in la Primera.

*Hot news update! On Sunday, Clemente rowed with a journalist who eventually walked out due to things getting more than a little nasty between the pair when the Sporting boss told him he was going to tell his son that he’s a “disgrace”. Normal service resumed for the Sporting boss.