The weekend's what-have-yous in Spain, with Tim Stannard...
That’s more like it! After a disobedient La Liga failed to follow the blog’s recent instructions to reopen the title race, Barcelona finally obliged by throwing away a two-goal lead to let the snout of Real Madrid sniff out of the car window of hope.
Naturally, nothing is set in stone: there will be more twists, turns and back-flips once Champions League games are thrown into the mix, starting with tonight’s Madrid derby before tomorrow’s trip to PSG for Barça. But for now, here’s a lowdown of the ins, outs and lessons learned from the game in Spain which spanned Saturday through to Monday.
Barcelona give Sevilla help and point
Normally Sevilla don’t need a helping hand in bottling big games; Unai Emery’s side often do a good enough job all on their lonesome. It looked like being the same story on Saturday with Barcelona 2-0 up in the Sánchez Pizjuán after half-an-hour and on the brink of a cheeky third to tie everything up – and in so doing, leap a huge hurdle in the path to title-winning glory.
But then Barcelona completely imploded in fairly entertaining fashion with Claudio Bravo showing uncharacteristically weak wrists by letting an Ever Banega effort squeak through. In the second half, Gerard Piqué opted for a flashback to his early season form with a sloppy pass out of defence that Sevilla pounced upon.
Back in August, Barcelona would have happily accepted a draw at Sevilla, but dropping two points now – especially in this fashion – all but cancels the advantage gained in the Clásico. That allows Real to have happy thoughts about the league title, although they have to head to the Sánchez Pizjuán themselves in May.
Beside the reduced title lead, the main worry in the Barcelona press was Neymar’s sulky reaction to his second-half substitution. “He still has a lot to learn and prove,” tutted Sport’s Joan Vehils, contrasting him with the exemplary behaviour of Leo Messi, who apparently never shows any sign of discontent when being replaced. Mainly because the Argentinian point-blank refuses to come off the pitch.
If Bale falls over in a forest, does anyone notice?
LLL hasn’t really got a big a huge amount to say on the Real Madrid win over Eibar, aside from the whole closing-the-gap-at-the-top thing, which is apparently quite important in news circles.
Lots of players rested ahead of tonight’s Champions League mugging in the Vicente Calderón. Lots of talk of players like Chicharito and Jesé reminding Carlo Ancelotti that they are still there, etc. And lots of noting that Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first direct free-kick for absolute yonks for Madrid’s opener.
There came an interesting observation from Marca, though, made by Roberto Palomar on Gareth Bale’s injury-initiated absence. “Not one atom of worry in the stands,” noted the grump on a player who may well find Isco in his place at Atlético, with the Spaniard being a little bit more defensive-minded when need be.
Griezmann continues one-man mission for Atléti
An odd display from Atlético Madrid ahead of the first Champions League whopper against Real Madrid. The 2-2 draw at Málaga showed the differing form of the Rojiblancos front two.
Fernando Torres still can’t score to save his life – well, apart from the oggie he scored here – whilst Antoine Griezmann is constantly the right man in the right place at the right time.
The Frenchman, who bagged a brace and now has 21 goals in all competitions this season, is one of the few players whose body delivers on the cheques written by his haircut.
Just what the doctor ordered for Valencia
A solid 3-0 win in Monday’s derby date with Levante hit the spot perfectly for Valencia, who took advantage of Sevilla’s draw to open up a three-point gap in fourth place and allow preparations for a huge trip to the Camp Nou to continue in peace and quiet. Relative to the normal madcap world of Valencia, anyhow.
Celta and Rayo show their best sides
Up in the lovely northwest of Spain, a 6-1 home win displayed the finest attributes of these mid-table teams. When Celta are on form, the Galicians are a wonderfully attacking side full of pokes, probes and supreme finishing. When Rayo are off their game – worsened by a gung-ho approach – they are a disaster, but a band of brothers that never stops getting up off the canvas to take another barrage of blows. Those sentiments will probably fly over the head of coach Paco Jémez, who fully blamed himself for Saturday’s slapping.
Getafe save their season in seven days
And there go Getafe. A season of dithering and threatening to join in the fun of a relegation battle is ended with a run of seven points in seven days to move the Madrid outfit to 36 points, probably a win away from securing an 11th successive top-flight campaign. The point iagainst Villarreal topped off victories against Deportivo and Elche. The huge downer, though, was the broken ankle for Villarreal's Mateo Musacchio.
Good day, bad day for Chory Castro
Poor Chory Castro. Real Sociedad’s Uruguayan scored a wonderful tight-angled volley that would have made Marco van Basten put down his cup of tea to applaud. Problem is, it only came in a 2-2 draw against a poor Deportivo side who, new coach or not, really should have been turned over in Anoeta.