Good DayVÃÂctor ValdÃÂ©sÃ¢ÂÂIt was him and 10 others,Ã¢ÂÂ beamed Pep Guardiola as he patted the panting goal-conceding guardian on the head after BarcelonaÃ¢ÂÂs gritty, grinding win over Athletic Bilbao. It was the first clean sheet for ValdÃÂ©s in the league this season, and thatÃ¢ÂÂs good cause for scenes of celebration in Catalunya where the Camp Nou crazies have been a little concerned at the tendency for opposition players to whack the ball hopefully towards goal and get onto the score sheet seconds later. Ã¢ÂÂBarÃÂ§a have characterÃ¢ÂÂ was the praise from El Pais on a performance which was the blueprint on how to overcome Athletic - elbows and energy. The one downside, writes the still-glaring Lluis MascarÃÂ³ in Sport, is how Barcelona look without Messi or Xavi on the pitch. Ã¢ÂÂWithout them, BarÃÂ§a lose the ability to unbalance. They lack depth and improvisation,Ã¢ÂÂ complained the columnist.
First clean sheet this season for BarÃÂ§a's No.1
Unai EmeryTop of the league, another comfortable win and with David Villa scoring for fun, youÃ¢ÂÂd except the Valencia coach to be as happy as Sergio Ramos at a Ã¢ÂÂgoing commandoÃ¢ÂÂ themed toga party. But according to La Liga LocaÃ¢ÂÂs Emery-mood-o-meter, Unai is at the Ã¢ÂÂkept awake all night by a car alarm,Ã¢ÂÂ happiness stage. Ã¢ÂÂThere is still room for improvement at home,Ã¢ÂÂ complained Emery after ValenciaÃ¢ÂÂs 4-0 win over Numancia - a win that sees the Mestalla man dropping into second place in the blogÃ¢ÂÂs sack-race selection. Gonzalo HiguaÃÂnÃ¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs got a pair,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Pedja Mijatovic on the ArgentineÃ¢ÂÂs decision to grab the ball off Rafael Van der Vaart and take the nail-bitingly nervy last minute penalty in front of the Ultras. HiguaÃÂn continues to be the player who can happily spend 90 minutes blasting the ball into the stands against the likes of Espanyol, but when the cookie is crumbling, the heat is on and the chips are on fire then the striker has balls of steel.
HiguaÃÂn holds his nerve from 12 yards
Espanyol Unlike the rest of La LigaÃ¢ÂÂs losers, Espanyol are actually managing to pick up points in their Fearsome Foursome run of matches. Their Bernabeu draw a fortnight ago was followed with another one against Villarreal on Saturday night.All the more impressive considering they didnÃ¢ÂÂt even try, according to Manuel Pellegrini. Ã¢ÂÂThey put no effort into scoring a goal,Ã¢ÂÂ complained the Yellow Submarine skipper. HereÃ¢ÂÂs Paul from Barcelona with his particular point of view."The Yellow Submarine came to town and they brought the circus with them, well a clown anyway. Yes folks, despite giving Espanyol a BarÃÂ§a- style dubious penalty, the ref was awful. Despite the 0-0 scoreline, it was a really good match. Good passing football from both teams with Rossi looking very good indeed. Both teams had chances with the best falling to Nene who, after a mazy dribble came up with a mazy shot. He really should have scored.The penalty was one of those where you get them at home but never away or, in BarÃÂ§a's case, home, away and on Pro Evolution 09. Both teams had chances to win it and a draw was about right with Espanyol getting a split points decision.1) Do Villarreal have any Spanish fans? In the stadium they had a Finnish fan club and two Uruguayan flags.2) What were the lads from Scotland, who watched the whole match shirtless and vocally supported Espanyol from start to finish, on?3) Marcos Senna is as good a midfield player as you will see. He passes to his own men and is never out of position. 4) Pareja and Jarque were, yet again, magnificent.5) The Mossos (Catalan police, Sponsored by UNICEF) were extremely low profile, inside and outside the ground, and the away fans were put on the lower tier away from anyone else. Three weeks too late.Stray cat count = 0."Paul, BarcelonaMalaga, SportingBoth sides continuing their 10 step paths to recovery after tricky starts to their return to the Primera. And both teams are beating their possible opponents when it comes to the unseemly scrap for survival at the end of the season. Real BetisMuch as it pained La Liga Loca to admit this, but Betis had been playing reasonably well, as demonstrated by their first half performance against Villarreal a fortnight ago, and did not deserve to be at the bottom. But it was still funny to see them there, mind.A perky 3-0 trouncing of Mallorca has lifted them out of the relegation zone and taken a little pressure off Paco Chaparro who must surely have been going grey over the past two months were he in possession of his own hair. AndrÃÂ©s PalopSevillaÃ¢ÂÂs man between the sticks has now broken the club record for keeping a clean sheet - 495 minutes and counting. About 491 minutes longer than Ever Banega ever manages when he gets home from a game.Sevilla are still plodding their way to the top but were especially effective away to AlmerÃÂa on Sunday night, considering the Andalusian side were lining up without KanoutÃÂ©, Chevanton, KonÃÂ©, Fabiano, Capel, Renato, Drago and Mosquera.
Palop celebrates entering Sevilla's history books
Bad DayAtlÃÂ©tico Madrid fansIn many ways, the rojiblancos showed sure signs of improvement during the Madrid derby. In 2003/04 Ronaldo scored after just 11 seconds. Last year, it was Raul after 31. On Saturday night, plucky AtlÃÂ©tico held on for three more seconds until Ruud took an early pop at Leo Franco.The one thing that the rojiblanco faithful can use to turn those frowns upside down is the thought they too have a chance to purchase their own AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid sandwich toaster (with non stick feet) like Real Madrid last weekend. And all thanks to those good people at Marca. el PatoA big welcome back to GetafeÃ¢ÂÂs number one and a big welcome back to his insane sorties off his goal-line - the latest of which gifted Malaga victory on Sunday afternoon. Racing SantanderJuan RamÃÂ³n LÃÂ³pez MuÃÂ±ez - or Juan as he shall now more conveniently be called - was always going to find it the toughest of tests to step into MarcelinoÃ¢ÂÂs sweaty slippers when his predecessor had an apparent mental breakdown over the summer, and left for Zaragoza.But he probably felt that he would be doing a little better than just one win after seven rounds of La Liga. SundayeÃ¢ÂÂs bore-draw against Deportivo was the kind of game they must do better in. Fernando LlorenteThe Basque clubÃ¢ÂÂs entire strategy this year appears to be relying on thumping crosses in, in the vain hope that the lumbering Llorente gets on the end of them. It doesnÃ¢ÂÂt appear to be working, with the forward managing just one goal so far this season. France FootballSergio Ramos makes the 30 player short-list for the Ballon dÃ¢ÂÂOr but AndrÃÂ©s Iniesta doesnÃ¢ÂÂt? Zut Alors! ASOn Sunday, AS made note of the display of the AtlÃÂ©tico Ultras banner that paid tribute to the very squashed and very dead Austrian far right politician, Jorg Haider. Unfortunately, it failed to condemn it. However, there was praise from Tomas Roncero for the Real Madrid Ultras at the other end of the stadium - another delightful bunch of Nazi-saluting supporters. Ã¢ÂÂThere was magnificent behaviour from the 700 Madridista heroes present in the CalderÃÂ³n standsÃ¢ÂÂ - heroes who were escorted back to the centre of the city by hundreds of heavily armed police and spent the match with 1000 tear gas guns pointing at their empty skulls.
Real fans make the short trip to the CalderÃÂ³n
MarcaSigh. MondayÃ¢ÂÂs Marca leads with the comment from an unnamed Real Madrid director who complained that Ã¢ÂÂthey donÃ¢ÂÂt want us to win the league,Ã¢ÂÂ after the disallowed goals for Ruud and Raul. Instead of pointing out that Van Nistelrooy was sent off and Madrid were given a penalty in the last minute of the match, Marca have dutifully agreed with the opinion in their editorial that Ã¢ÂÂMadrid are right to feel mistreated by the referees.Ã¢ÂÂ The paper also made space to publish the occasions where decisions may have gone against Madrid but for Barcelona this season.The blog would also like to know why Rafa Nadal gets 8 out of 10 in their chart of the weekendÃ¢ÂÂs sporting successes, while Madrid Masters winner Andy Murray does not appear. La Liga Loca has just one piece of advice. Stick to selling sandwich toasters.