Özil impresses again in Madrid win, Malaga suffer Mestalla mauling

FourFourTwo.com's man in Spain, Tim Stannard, runs the rule over the weekend's Primera action...

Good Day

Eric AbidalThe French defender played the full 90 minutes against Levante, continuing a comeback for that is, in the truest sense of the word, heroic.

Mesut ÖzilThere are no eyebrows to speak of beneath the German’s forehead, which is a little disconcerting, but Mesut Özil is a very amiable fella, and also a player who has scored braces in two consecutive home games for Real Madrid. “He’s up there with Ronaldo and Messi,” purred Betis boss, Pepe Mel. “When he scores more goals, he’ll get the praise he deserves.”

Atlético MadridThere was more than a smidgen of handball in the build-up to Atlético’s goal in their 1-0 win at Sevilla, but it was double delight for the Champions League-chasing side, who took advantage of Real Sociedad dropping two points to increase the lead between third and fourth to 11 with 18 to play for. That could be useful with the traditional hapless loss to Real Madrid just around the corner.

ValenciaWell, that was quite mad. The blog thought Valencia would sneak Saturday evening's match against Malaga by the odd goal. But that theory was swiftly proven to be completely incorrect when the Mestalla club scored four goals in six minutes, something Los Che had never managed before. It’s even more incredible an act when you consider that Roberto Soldado is in the forward line and would normally fluff both of the two chances he managed to score.

PitiLa Liga Loca must admit it had suspected Rayo’s attention may not have been fully focussed on Friday evening's trip to Mallorca. However, manager Paco Jémez publicly warned his players that he was expecting their best performance of the season, and he was rewarded with a fine showing in a 1-1 draw. A party piece from Piti opened the scoring as the Vallecas side avoided Paco’s big stick. “The team played the game I wanted,” announced the Rayo boss after the weekend's opening match.

VerdúThe Espanyol playmaker is out of contract in June, and the number of clubs keen on signing the 29-year-old may have increased when he opened the scoring in the Pericos 2-0 win at Getafe. It was his eighth strike of the season and helped put Espanyol on 43 points - mission pretty much accomplished in the survival stakes.

Deportivo & Athletic BilbaoDepor boss Fernando Vazquez reckons 38 points could be enough to stay up, with a lot of clubs in the relegation scrap playing each other in final six games. Sunday's draw in la Coruña brought Deportivo within three victories of that target and left a still spooked Athletic just one win away.

Fernando LlorenteGetting a few minutes on the pitch would normally constitute a good day for the Athletic Bilbao striker these days, but the Pamplona-born forward managed to start and score a goal to boot. Happy days are here again.

GranadaCliché time: If the Andalusian side play like they did in the home draw against Valladolid, then they will have no trouble staying up. Granada had 27 shots - nine on target - and only some ridiculously good keeping from Jaime in the Valladolid goal prevented a Granada win. “He was like Spiderman,” said a frustrated Granada coach, Lucas Alcaraz, after the clash. “What he did was extraordinary,” agreed opposing boss, Miroslav Djukic.

Osasuna & Real SociedadIt may have been a complete stalemate in Pamplona but there were positives for both teams in Sunday's 0-0 draw. Osasuna stopped a run of leakiness and Real Sociedad continued to prove that the side can be tough cookies, dig in and grind out points when required.

Bad Day

Barcelona & Real MadridWhy not stick ‘em both in the Bad Day section, just to be contrary? Two victories for the Big Two, but two completely pointless football matches, aside from some spirited opposition from Levante and Betis. The title race could be properly over - although it fell into a deep, deep, sleep in December - next week if Real Madrid lose at Atlético, and Barcelona defeat Athletic Bilbao in San Mamés.

Diego CostaThe legend continues. The antagonistic Atlético Madrid forward once again put himself about a bit in the clash at Sevilla, continuing to earn friends in the Sánchez Pizjuán. The performance included a yellow card that is set to put the Brazilian out of next week’s derby, and a pathetic attempt at feigning a headbutt from Cala. “He spent the whole game provoking,” complained Unai Emery. “The referees need to control this.”

Málaga‘Inexplicable’ was the vibe from Manuel Pellegrini after the 5-1 loss to Valencia which topped off a tempestuous weekend for the side, after the Chilean boss slammed - tabloid style - the Málaga owners for the lack of direction for the side. “The club should be working for the next season,” complained Pellegrini on Friday. “It’s an uncomfortable situation of uncertainty, with a lot of players finishing their contracts. The future of the club needs to be more about deeds than words.”

Sheikh Al ThaniThe Málaga president is still in the running for the blog’s hastily created ‘Leader of the Year’ award. The Qatari owner topped his recent Tweet-rant against 'racist' UEFA following his side's Champions League exit by condemning his footballers for playing “without heart” on Saturday. All very quiet though, when the same footballers were playing without wages.

Leo BaptistaoIf all the transfer gossip over a move to Atlético Madrid over the summer is true, the Rayo forward has probably played his last match for the Vallecas side after breaking his collarbone during Friday’s Mallorca draw.

GetafeFor the second year in a row, Getafe boss Luis García is apparently having problems convincing his footballers to push on for more, having reached the safety point. After a run of four wins from five, Getafe have managed just 2 points from 12 and suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Espanyol on Sunday. The Coliseum club had two players sent off to add to the soft red card for Alexis last week, which saw any comeback as impossible. “Strange things at the end of the season, the Alexis sending off, injuries...”

Mallorca“At least we got a point,” was the only positive the Mallorca boss could take from the home draw with Rayo, a match that the Balearic side really had to win to stay in la Primera. Next week’s clash with Zaragoza is now more than a ‘final’, it’s a “super-match” claimed Manzano, upping the stakes even further.

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