Phil Neville's got the Los Che hotseat until they can find a new man permanently, writes Tim Stannard...
Oh dear. Another Primera coach has fallen – and a big one too, with Valencia lurching into full-on, alarms-ringing crisis mode after defeat at Sevilla now means the Mestalla side are on the hunt for a new manager following Nuno's resignation. And that is pretty much the main chatter point coming out of the weekend, with Barcelona being brilliant against Real Sociedad, Atlético Madrid getting a 1-0 win and hanging onto it for dear life again, and Real Madrid grinding victory out at Eibar.
Nuno jumps ship after another Valencia defeat
This has always been my choice
LLL must admit it didn’t quite see that one coming. The blog always assumed that Nuno would ride whichever storm was blowing at Valencia – par for the course in Mestalla – but the Portuguese manager announced that he was stepping down after the 1-0 defeat to Sevilla that put his side down to nine men.
“This has always been my choice,” said the now ex-Valencia boss in a decision that might well have been made before the game.
Without being able to clamber into the manager’s head, the blog suspects the Valencia gig just wasn’t worth the enormous hassle – something that countless managers before have learned and countless more in the future will learn. One of those will be Phil Neville, by the end of his days partly in charge of the team.
No let-up from brilliant Barcelona
The biggest concern of Luis Enrique's was whether his players might ease up after a spectacular week where 10 goals were whacked in against Real Madrid and then Roma. It seems fair to say that there was no sign of a lull with Luis Suárez, Neymar and Leo Messi all lining up from the start against Sociedad (you’ll never catch LLL using this MSN/BBC nonsense, thank you very much). Dani Alves decided to join the fun in the 4-0 win too, and it was the normally overly exuberant Brazilian who was towing the line with the calm-down-calm-down philosophy. “We will not let all the praise weaken us,” announced the full-back post-match. Enrique also had a post-match point, after Messi scored in injury time to add to goals from Suárez and Neymar. “If all three don’t score, then the party is not complete,” the Asturian boss mused.
Tiago news overshadows latest Atlético eke-out
Watching Atlético Madrid is hard work these days. And it's been that way for a couple of years. In the side’s third 1-0 La Liga win in a row, Atleti scored an early goal and then, aside from a series of missed chances, that was about it. “We didn’t start strongly and we paid for it,” lamented Espanyol boss Sergio González.
The lack of goals is a bit of a problem for Diego Simeone, whose team have scored almost half of Barça's tally. However, there's some yin to that downer yang, with Atlético having conceded half as many goals. A flaccid strike rate wasn't the biggest issue on the Rojiblanco hive mind from Saturday’s game, though, what with Tiago having broken his leg. Atleti will now be without a crucial cog for at least the next four months.
Rafa’s Madrid revel in battling grimness in Eibar
LLL very much appreciated the grimness of Real's 2-0 win against Eibar, the kind of match for which a Rafa Benítez side is perfectly suited. The visitors could have been wearing flat caps and clutching whippets.
The game itself tends to be of little consequence in the Monday papers, but it's what the Madrid media is getting its kecks in a bunch about. And that is largely a supposed rift between James Rodríguez and Benítez, who subbed his player in the second half and then said he apparently had a sensational game.
“There’s no doubt that there is something he doesn’t like about him,” notes AS editor, Alfredo Relaño. The second matter was a muscle injury picked up by Dani Carvajal, the team’s 16th of the season, and Karim Benzema starting another match from the bench. That should all keep things ticking over until next weekend, unless there is a catastrophe in the Copa del Rey against Cadiz midweek.
Could Aduriz cause abbreviation calamity at Camp Nou?
With the Rayo players having desperately pushed everyone forward in a collective urge to score, it was easy for Aritz Aduriz to run clean through on goal from the halfway line and pop home a match-ending strike.
The problem for Rayo was that this wasn't the dying embers of injury time. That Aduriz strike came after just 54 seconds. “We just give a goal to the opposition every game,” sighed boss Paco Jémez after the 3-0 loss.
For Ernesto Valverde, a fanciful problem was pondered. Aduriz has now popped up with 20 goals this season, two more than Luis Suárez. “I hope Barcelona don’t sign him,” joked the Athletic boss.
Betis find more solace away from Seville
Another away trip for an under-pressure Pepe Mel and his players, and another victory. The squeaky 1-0 win for Betis, against a Levante side that struck the woodwork three times, was their fourth victory on the road in five. That lies in stark contrast to the team’s home form, which currently reads a rather disappointing four defeats in a row. “We're going to have to ask for our ground to be closed,” joshed the Betis boss after Rubén Castro popped up in three minutes to seal the deal early doors.
Man down at Málaga as two points tossed away
Now that’s exactly what Málaga didn’t need. The club was already teetering on the chasm of crisis before Granada came to town, with huge rifts in the team’s space-time institutional continuum. But matters seemed to be a teeny bit better after Málaga took a 2-0 lead. Indeed, that lead was held until the final two minutes when two big headers from the Andalusians meant a couple of points lost to relegation rivals.
At least Javi Gracia continued in his job. The same cannot be said for one of his bosses, as the team’s director general Vicente Casado was kicked out of the Málaga collective a couple of hours after the clash.
Galician charge continues behind frontrunners
Deportivo continued a solid run of form to move into the top three under-belly zone currently led by Celta, who ended a run of two defeats in a row with a win over Sporting. But their Galician rivals are just three points away after a win at Las Palmas, ahead of a wobbling Villarreal who were downed by Getafe.