Barcelona turned on the style against Celta Vigo, explains Tim Stannard, while everyone's favourite pundit finally got off the mark as Valencia manager...
La Liga Loca is standing on the rainy touchline of punditry and applauding the players of all 20 Primera teams off the pitch – and giving the occasional affectionate bum tap – as everyone gave 120% this weekend. Even a Deportivo side that has now drawn its fifth game in a row were bags of fun in a 2-2 tie with Betis.
But the biggest hand of all goes to Barcelona, who wrapped up the weekend with a genuinely breathtaking 15 minutes of football that could have left Celta boss Eduardo Berizzo standing motionless on the sidelines and pondering what the heck just happened in a game his team were very much still in before things escalated very quickly indeed.
Neymar being Neymar
Mischievous Messi sparks romp against Celta
Well that was just bizarre. LLL was mentally penning some kind of ramble about how it was nice to have a team coming to the Camp Nou and taking it to the hosts like a team of streetwise cheerleaders from Detroit, but then Barça suddenly played some kind of video game cheat and became utterly unstoppable.
With football being football, the talk focused on Messi’s passed penalty to set up Suárez and whether it was a ‘lack of respect’ or a perfectly valid way to score a goal
Indeed, the game was still open with 15 minutes left on the clock, the score at 2-1 and the incisive visitors from Galicia a constant threat. But then Luis Suárez rattled a brace in six minutes, and Ivan Rakitic and Neymar added a couple more to complete what looked like – but was actually far from – a rout at 6-1.
With football being football, the talk focused on Messi’s passed penalty to set up Suárez – namely whether it was a ‘lack of respect’ or a perfectly valid way to score a goal, especially as the Argentine is largely awful when shooting from the spot. The answer is clearly the latter, although that won’t stop at least two days of nattering and chattering in Spain about its ethics.
Despite all of the excitement buzzing around, Luis Enrique seemed immune to the spell of giddiness, instead remembering that the match could have turned out differently. “It was a very nice night because we beat a great team. But it was a normal night. There was nothing historic about it,” the Barça boss said after the thumping win over his previous employers.
Will Roma be Snow White to Ronaldo's evil queen?
“He’s hot, he’s not, he’s hot, he’s not.” The weekly examination of Cristiano Ronaldo continued after a brace in Real Madrid’s 4-2 triumph over a battling Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabéu on Saturday.
Even the great Zinedine Zidane referred to Ronaldo as the dog’s goolies in the post-match press conference
The Portuguese poacher has now racked up 32 goals in 30 league and Champions League appearances this term – impressive stats for a 31-year-old who shows no sign of slowing down. Even the great Zinedine Zidane referred to Ronaldo as the dog’s goolies in the post-match press conference.
The problem is that Ronaldo hasn't scored away from home in 368 minutes and has fired blanks against most of the big boys this season, including Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, PSG, Villarreal and Valencia. There is even pooh-poohing of his form in Marca ,with Roberto Palomar suggesting that Zizou’s praise this week will simply feed Ronaldo’s philosophy of “mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest… in the stadium”.
In order to avoid another bout of two factions engaging in another scoff-fest, Ronaldo is going to have to pull out all the stops in the Champions League against Roma on Wednesday.
Valencia victory is perfect nightcap for Neville
The Mancunian kept his clogs in the ground after the game, however, insisting that it was “not a night for any kind of celebration.”
Saturday night was probably the best lump of sleep Gary Neville has experienced since arriving in Spain. No longer does the former pundit need to count Alvaro Negredo misses to help him get to sleep. The 'dumpster-fire derby' between two troubled clubs ended with Valencia prevailing in front of a supportive Mestalla crowd, despite falling behind to visiting Espanyol.
The three points don’t particularly mean much in terms of the league table – Valencia are now 20 points off the Champions League places – but the win at least ends a run of 12 La Liga games without a victory.
Once again Valencia were by no means terrible, but the dice rolled in Neville’s favour this time. The Mancunian kept his clogs in the ground after the game, however, insisting that it was “not a night for any kind of celebration”. He even insisted that he completely understood the speculation about his future, noting that he himself would be “saying the same thing as a journalist and as a fan”.
Atlético out-Atlético Atlético to face new Atlético next week
The strike after just over a minute saw the visitors out-Atlético Atlético with an early goal and then not much else in a 1-0 victory over Getafe
LLL is about to break a new year’s resolution from 2014: never make lazy-bum jokes at the expense of Fernando Torres, a man who has achieved more in his particular lifetime than this blog in all of its various alternative realities. The Atlético striker scored in his second successive game this weekend, which constitutes a positive hot streak for the Spaniard who now has 101 goals in a Rojiblanco shirt.
The strike after just over a minute saw the visitors out-Atlético Atlético with an early goal and then not much else in a 1-0 victory over Getafe, who have now failed to score against their city neighbours in 11 games. And that’s out-Getafe-ing Getafe. “Every time we come here, Getafe push us hard,” Diego Simeone said sportingly. “They always make it a tough game.”
Atlético’s resilience away from home means they continue to keep up with Barcelona. The next challenge is fourth-placed Villarreal, who are unbeaten in 11 and have developed very Atlético-like tendencies – being effective, successful, but not exactly CGI-stuffed fantasy fare. Indeed, choosing to watch one of these teams is a bit like the culturally moral choice between paying good money to watch the worthy Birdman or the Barcelona of Mad Max.
Villarreal have now kept 11 clean sheets this season, the latest in a 1-0 squeaked win against Málaga on Saturday. Next week’s clash in the Spanish capital could resemble two boulders playing chess.
Incredible Eibar back on track
A crowd of 4,766 served as a handy reminder of where the club’s financial bread is buttered
Aaaaaaaaaaaand Eibar are back. Three defeats in a row – two of them expected and completely forgivable in trips to San Mamés and the Vicente Calderón – have been forgotten, and the miracle bandwagon is back on course.
The Basque side grabbed a 2-0 win over Levante that means they end the weekend in sixth place on 36 points – three or four from probable safety, which is where a gloomy LLL still sees their priorities lie. A crowd of 4,766 served as a handy reminder of where their financial bread is buttered.
Indeed, José Luis Mendilibar saw the win against the bottom side as a crucial one, particularly as it came on the back of three defeats. “If you don’t win or lose then some of the bad thoughts of last season could have begun,” he noted, recalling Eibar’s dramatic slide down the table and last-day ‘relegation’ in 2014/15.
Eibar didn't have Borja Bastón back then, though, the on-loan Spaniard from Atlético Madrid who notched his 16th Primera goal of the season on Sunday – the same number as Neymar, don’cha know.