GOOD DAYReal MadridBlimey. Madrid could actually win this, a concept La Liga Loca poo-pooed just this weekend with its prediction of a defeat for Juande RamosÃ¢ÂÂ men. And this could send Barcelona fans into therapy for decades, not to mention the mental implosion that will take place at Sport, whose offices may simply fold into a shiny singularity like the house in Ã¢ÂÂPoltergeistÃ¢ÂÂ. For half an hour, it looked as if Sevilla would be getting their bloodthirsty revenge on their Spurs-swapping boss, the man the crowd waved fake Juande Dollar bills at before the game. At 1-0 up and playing with the kind of cojones that had been lacking in the matches against Getafe, Valencia and Barcelona, the Andalusian side had Madrid mired in the mud. But, once again, Real hung on for dear life and grabbed yet another goal just before half-time, the first strike in RaÃÂºlÃ¢ÂÂs hat-trick (in a game where he only had three blinkinÃ¢ÂÂ touches). The show now moves to the Bernabeu next Saturday. A win for Madrid and itÃ¢ÂÂs a 50/50 tight tussle for the title. Real have nasty-looking away matches in Mestalla and el Madrigal, but Barcelona have some business to attend to in a couple of other competitions. This could be fun.
Three touches, three goals
BarcelonaLa Liga Loca is in full on sitting-on-the-fence, cowardly, pleasing all of the people, all of the time, mode on Monday by placing Barcelona in the Ã¢ÂÂGood DayÃ¢ÂÂ section too. As Mundo Deportivo shouted on SundayÃ¢ÂÂs front page, PepÃ¢ÂÂs Dream Boys picked up Ã¢ÂÂa huge pointÃ¢ÂÂ in Mestalla. Sport called the 2-2 a Ã¢ÂÂdraw that felt like a victoryÃ¢ÂÂ. Valencia matched BarcelonaÃ¢ÂÂs pace and passing precision for 90 minutes and perhaps deserved the win, especially after the referee ignored Carles Puyol crashing into David Villa, who may perhaps have gone down a little too theatrically. But the game was exactly the kind of nose-bloodying, sweaty affair that Barcelona needed ahead of the visit of Chelsea on Tuesday night. A proper team, giving them a proper match, unlike sorry Sevilla.ValenciaItÃ¢ÂÂs amazing what getting paid can do for the motivation of a side.
When the Valencia playersÃ¢ÂÂ Porsche repayments were in peril, the men from Mestalla more-or-less downed their footballing tools, despite narked denials that this was the case. But since the announcement that the club had got their hands on some loot to deal with the deficit, the squad has been firing on all cylinders with five wins from six, a run that has closed the gap on third-placed Sevilla to just one point. SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs display against Barcelona showed why a whole bunch of us stick our necks out every year and tip Valencia for the title, only to regret it about a fortnight later. Alvaro NegredoNot just a goal-scoring Goliath but an assist-maker extraordinaire too. The strikerÃ¢ÂÂs double dose of mazy runs led to AlmerÃÂaÃ¢ÂÂs two goals in their victory against Numancia that almost certainly sees them safe for another season. EspanyolAnother green shoot of hope has been handed to Paul from Barcelona and his beloved Pericos. But will it snap, only to see his dreams dashed on the rapids of... er... reality...?Ã¢ÂÂA Ã¢ÂÂI bet it's going to pee it down during the matchÃ¢ÂÂ type of day drew a 30,000 crowd and a fair few from Betis, about 1,500. There's a big Betis PeÃÂ±a in Barcelona and they were out in force."So it was mullets a go-go at the start which saw Espanyol take the lead after only four minutes through Luis 'I'll show that Stannard bloke who's rubbish' GarcÃÂa. "With the mercurial De la PeÃÂ±a having a blinder, it was all Espanyol who could and should have scored more. Betis had a penalty appeal turned down when serial whiner Oliveira took a nosedive."A different Betis came out for the second half - not literally culÃÂ©s, that would be ridiculous - but a more attacking formation."With Espanyol's defence having their best game as a unit in a long time, Betis never really looked like scoring and it was no surprise when Roman put Espanyol two up with a few minutes left."Overall, a great performance by Espanyol who never looked like losing against a very average team who seemed toothless - again not literally - in attack despite a feted front line. "Or were Espanyol's defence so good on the day it made them look bad?"Stray cats - 0. Working video screens - 0. As Espanyol are leaving Montjuic the council is not bothering to repair anything.Ã¢ÂÂPaul, Barcelona
Espanyol keep survival hopes alive
MallorcaThe 2-4 win for Mallorca may not have raised too many eyebrows around the world, but it was a whopping win for Mallorca. With Sevilla, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Villarreal making up four out of five of their last games of the season, the Balearic battlers had to pick up three points against Recre to move them onto 42 before a title-chasing tornado heads in their direction. Athletic BilbaoA midweek victory and one more on Sunday against Racing Santander puts the Basque club another step towards the security needed before their Copa del Rey clash with Barcelona.But thatÃ¢ÂÂs not whatÃ¢ÂÂs making news in the Spanish press on Monday. Oh no. Instead itÃ¢ÂÂs the dreadful refereeing performance by Gonzalo VÃÂ¡squez who brought out a record-breaking 18 cards (including five reds) in a match that El PaÃÂs said Ã¢ÂÂdidnÃ¢ÂÂt have a nasty knock, nor a kick at a knee, nor an insult, nor a late tackle.Ã¢ÂÂIt needed something special to break the man in the middleÃ¢ÂÂs own personal milestone set in last weekendÃ¢ÂÂs Valencia vs Sevilla clash, when he showed 15 yellows and two reds, but hats off to Gonzalo as he managed it in Bilbao. AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid AS noted soberly that a win was badly needed by Atleti to prevent some kind of Bastille-storming scenario, but thatÃ¢ÂÂs exactly what they managed with a comfortable 3-1 win over Sporting.But this did not stop the fans from fuming after the capitulation against Racing, just three days previously. The rojiblanco players were booed during the warm-up, booed when their names were read out and booed during the game, as well as olÃÂ©-cheering when the defenders managed to successfully pass to each other. But sharing the CalderÃÂ³n ire was club president Enrique Cerezo, who tutted after the match that Ã¢ÂÂwhen I go to a ground, I go see a game of football, not listen to the shouts of a section of the public.Ã¢ÂÂLa Liga Loca says go to a different ground next time then, you clown. BAD DAYVictor ValdÃÂ©sThe Barcelona keeper was flapping so much on Saturday night he nearly took off. And you can bet yer bunnies that Chelsea were taking notes.
"Keeper's ball... er, hang on, no you deal with it Carlos"
SportingItÃ¢ÂÂs now six defeats in a row for Sporting, the last of which being the 3-1 defeat in the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n. Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂre on a super bad run,Ã¢ÂÂ noted the growling manager Manolo Preciado. Numancia, RecreativoIt looks like at least two of the relegation spots have been fixed after a double dose of defeat for the down-in-the-dumps duo. Numancia came a cropper against AlmerÃÂa to leave them on 28 points, while Recreativo suffered a disastrous home defeat to Mallorca which now requires the Huelvan side to pick up four wins from five to stay up. Ã¢ÂÂWe know what it takes to win in this division,Ã¢ÂÂ said Recreativo boss Lucas Alcaraz, announcing that his team had not given up all hope just yet. SevillaThe club had done their very bestest to ensure a victory for the side off the pitch, but could do little to guarantee a win on it.
Local bars had been encouraged to charge just a euro for tapas and beer before the match, to help warm the supporters up. In La Liga LocaÃ¢ÂÂs experiences at the beery, cheery SÃÂ¡nchez PizjuÃÂ¡n, such encouragement is rarely needed.Unfortunately for the singing supporters, Sevilla ran out of puff after just half-an-hour and have now lost four league matches in a row, the clubÃ¢ÂÂs worst ever record in the top flight.
Sevilla slump again
OsasunaJust one point from the last three games means that Osasuna still need two more victories to stay up in their last five games. Three of those will be against Sevilla, Barcelona and Real Madrid.