FourFourTwo's man in Madrid, Tim Stannard, wades through the weekend's La Liga action and separates the good and bad...
RESULTS Fri 8 Mar Real Betis 2-1 Osasuna Sat 9 Mar Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Espanyol, Real Valladolid 1-1 Malaga, Barcelona 2-0 Deportivo, Mallorca 2-1 Sevilla Sun 10 Mar Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Valencia, Levante 0-0 Getafe, Celta Vigo 1-2 Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid 0-1 Real Sociedad.
JosÃÂ© Manuel PintoIt wasn't exactly a dazzling display from BarÃÂ§a against Deportivo, with a number of starters observing the kick-off from the comfort of the bench with Milan in mind, but the 2-0 win brought three more points and a first clean sheet in two months. Blog hero, JosÃÂ© Manuel Pinto, began a four match residence between the sticks due to potty-mouthed VÃÂctor ValdÃÂ©s' suspension, while Leo Messi came off the bench to find the net for the 17th league games in a row.
Cristiano RonaldoThe Madrid man will continue to make the front covers of the local papers while the forward is the only one scoring. The 2-1 away win at Celta - inspired by a brace from Ronaldo - reflects the fact that Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs dubious away day sickness has finally been cured. It also puts the side into second place, above AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid, for good measure.
Thibaut CourtoisThe Atletico Madrid keeper, on loan from Chelsea, broke current Celta Vigo boss Abel Resino's La Liga record of 800 unbeaten minutes between the sticks, a target set in the 1990-91 campaign. The new record now stands at 820 minutes, with Courtois now on 37 since Sociedad's Xabi Prieto scored the only goal on Sunday's shock away victory.
MÃÂ¡lagaTough to know where to plonk MÃÂ¡laga this weekend, but Manuel Pellegrini seemed happy enough with the point at Valladolid, and who is LLL to disagree? The main concern, though, will be the continued lack of goals from the forward line, with MÃÂ¡lagaÃ¢ÂÂs opener coming from the head of MartÃÂn Demichelis after a free-kick. ValenciaÃ¢ÂÂs loss at Athletic Bilbao a day later also helped MÃÂ¡laga along the way too. After all, they just have the league to focus on soon, if things donÃ¢ÂÂt go to plan against Porto during the week.
Philippe MontanierMoving Real Sociedad into Champions League contention by beating AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid still isnÃ¢ÂÂt good enough for the clubÃ¢ÂÂs president, Jokin Aperribay. Ã¢ÂÂMontanierÃ¢ÂÂs renovation doesnÃ¢ÂÂt depend on results,Ã¢ÂÂ said the Basque bigwig, whose side have lost just a single game in the past 17, a 4-3 defeat against Real Madrid in the Santiago BernabÃÂ©u.
Pepe MelThe Betis coach has been nothing but consistent this season, insisting all along that the first priority for the club is avoiding relegation. A 2-1 home win over Osasuna on Friday night took them to 43 points, meaning it's mission all but accomplished for Betis. Pepe Mel beamed that Ã¢ÂÂtoday, on 8th March, we have achieved our objective. We are the only team in la Liga that can say that today.Ã¢ÂÂ La Liga Loca disagrees, and suspects that at the back of every AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid fanÃ¢ÂÂs mind, thereÃ¢ÂÂs a finish line marked Ã¢ÂÂ42 pointsÃ¢ÂÂ.
Rayo VallecanoLa Liga Loca will be delighted to write every week from this point onwards that the blog was completely wrong in predicting relegation for Rayo. Then again, a number of Rayo fans also feared the worst following the departures of Diego Costa and Michu, are therefore in the same word-eating boat. The 2-0 victory over Espanyol in Vallecas on Saturday afternoon gave Rayo 41 points - almost, almost, almost over the finishing line for survival. Almost.
LevanteThe goalless draw with Getafe looks like a typical post-Europe hangover, but itÃ¢ÂÂs a match that Levante were very unlucky not to win. Unfortunately though, it does leave the Valencia side with just the single win from nine matches.
ValladolidLa LigaÃ¢ÂÂs stealth team keep on squeezing out points to carry them towards safety. Valladolid only have the single win from seven games but four of those results have been draws. The latest was a 1-1 at home to MÃÂ¡laga and leaves Valladolid on 35 and coach, Miroslav Djukic, happy with the Ã¢ÂÂpositive dynamicÃ¢ÂÂ of the team.
Alejandro AlfaroTwo pouncing efforts from shots bouncing off the post and goalkeeper brought about a 2-0 against the Mallorca striker's former club, Sevilla. Ã¢ÂÂWe are still in the danger zone, so our heads arenÃ¢ÂÂt in the clouds,Ã¢ÂÂ said Gregorio Manzano, who claims his job in recent weeks has merely been to restore morale to the players. It seems to be working for Mallorca, who even had a crowd watching them on Saturday night.
Iker MuniainOne of the disappointments of the season in la Liga scores his first goal in the division since October 2011 in a 1-0 win over visiting Valencia, a game in which Athletic rode their luck a little. Ã¢ÂÂOnce I said the team had 20 points less than it deserved. In relation to the last games I would say we had 14 less as in the past two matches, the results have been in our favour,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted the ever wonderful Marcelo Bielsa, referencing last weekÃ¢ÂÂs away win at Osasuna.
AtlÃÂ©tico MadridA bit of a flat atmosphere at a chilly Vicente CalderÃÂ³n on Sunday evening was matched by a far from hot AtlÃÂ©tico performance, which saw a winning run of 14 league matches at home broken by Real Sociedad. Ã¢ÂÂWe had the intention, but without the clarity,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Diego Simeone after a loss which came ironically (LLL thinks) after the sideÃ¢ÂÂs first midweek rest since the second round of the season.
Roberto SoldadoLa Liga Loca will forever have reservations in regards to Soldado due to the forward blowing chances over the bar from one metre, an effort that cost Valencia a deserved point in San MamÃÂ©s.
SevillaSevilla would be relegated if such things were based purely on away form (big thanks to an egg-head at Marca for bringing that fact to LLLÃ¢ÂÂs attention). SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs loss to Mallorca was SevillaÃ¢ÂÂs ninth away defeat of a campaign that sees just the single win from 14 on the road. And that was against Deportivo, so doesnÃ¢ÂÂt really count. Ã¢ÂÂThe stats away from Sevilla have been poor for a while,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Unai Emery, Ã¢ÂÂbut I keep believing in the team. Today we lost a final, but there are more to come and we have to pick ourselves up.Ã¢ÂÂ Yet more Ã¢ÂÂfinalÃ¢ÂÂ abuse from the Sevilla boss.
EspanyolThis is now a bit of a slump for the Pericos under the previously imperious Javier Aguirre with just one point from the last nine. Espanyol will still be as safe as a safe thing come the end of the season, but the talk of Europe a few weeks ago was clearly a little premature.
OsasunaTopsy-turvy form at the moment from Osasuna, who followed back-to-back wins with back-to-back defeats to losses to Athletic and Betis. On the plus side for the Pamplona outfit, Osasuna did score a fine Real Madrid-style counter-attacking effort in the 2-1 defeat, a far cry from the teamÃ¢ÂÂs normal more no frills, find your own seats, direct approach.
DeportivoNothing unexpected happened to Depor this weekend, as they suffered defeat at the Camp Nou. So itÃ¢ÂÂs just as desperate a situation after the fixture as it was before, with the bottom-of-the-table side stuck on 17 points. Ã¢ÂÂWe have to win seven of our final 11 games as a minimum,Ã¢ÂÂ said manager, Fernando Vazquez. That probably isnÃ¢ÂÂt going to happen.