Tim Stannard rounds up the big stories from Spain, after Luis Suarez inspires Barcelona to (awkward) victory...
Well that was a bit of a letdown. LLL was hoping for another big send-off before the international break, but it was all a bit of a damp squib with four goalless draws, Sevilla, Atlético Madrid and Valencia all failing in their duties as title chasers and Real Madrid being boringly predictable.
The only team that threatened to be interesting over the weekend were Barcelona, a side that was 1-0 down to Almería before ruining everything with a brace-assisting cameo from Luis Suárez.
A multi-million dollar bench bails out Barcelona
LLL has the itchy suspicion that if the local press are complaining that Suárez and Neymar should never be left on the bench, even against bottom dwellers like Almería, then life must be wobbly in the Camp Nou world. The traditional cloud of joyful smugness over the Catalan capital has long since blown away to leave a fog of disarray and confusion. The overdramatic LLL should note at this point, though, that Barça are still only two points off the top of the table.
Still, they were minutes away from defeat to Almería, which would have been their third in a row had it not been for an assist-making appearance from the Uruguayan über-biter. Luis Enrique described it as “the worst match since I have been here as a coach”.
Another uncomfortable international break awaits, with the continuing absence of Gerard Piqué set to become an elephant in the room at Barça - the speed at which the defender moves at these days - no matter how much the boss claims that there is no narrative to be found by a probing press in the World Cup winner’s continuing exile.
Almeria 1-2 Barcelona
Real Madrid score a bunch of goals.... again
Bored now. Real Madrid players, rather like Barcelona's, are so much more fun when they are blowing leads, hinting at moves to Manchester United and not defending set-pieces properly. Like at the start of the season, for example, when conceding four goals to Real Sociedad now feels like a preposterous memory. Although it is not the fault of the players who are all performing dutifully, watching a Real Madrid match is now a fairly soulless prospect. Like a Transformers film with all the wham, bam but no spontaneity.
Real Madrid 5-1 Rayo Vallecano
Celta still solid despite Granada grind
The Galicians may not have been able to build on last week’s majestic victory against Barça by coming up against Granada and the bus-parking ways of Joaquín Caparrós, but Celta still have the admirable record of just the single defeat in 11 this season. Although LLL wishes continued success on the side, that is tempered with the warning that whenever Celta have qualified for Europe in the past, it has normally been followed by a season of struggle and a fall into La Segunda.
Celta Vigo 0-0 Granada
Málaga get rub of the green from referee
The southern side has suffered at the hands and whistle of the man in the middle this season, with most games producing some kind of sending off. But Málaga made it five wins from five in La Liga in the dying minutes against Eibar, after a ball popped up and hit visiting defender Raúl Navas on the arm, despite the player actively trying to get out of the way. The referee was not convinced, awarding the penalty which ultimately gave Málaga the win to leave the side in the top six going into a well-earned international break.
Malaga 2-1 Eibar
Title chasers miss their opportunities
Valencia can probably be forgiven for the goalless draw against Athletic in Mestalla which resembled two giant Godzilla-like beasties smashing into each other in downtown Shanghai. The Basque side have now rediscovered its past strengths of defensive solidity and are unbeaten in four.
Unfortunately Sevilla don’t have the same excuse, having drawn 1-1 in the Sánchez Pizjuán against second-from-bottom Levante, another sign of a big old choke from the players when the team approaches the top of the table. The players are complaining about some brusque treatment from the ‘vibrant’ Levante players.
“There are three team-mates who almost ended up in hospital,” gasped the home side goalscorer, Vitolo. It’s a point confirmed by defender Alejandro Arribas, who admitted after the game that he did not remember Levante’s equaliser after taking a big old knock to the head.
Valencia 0-0 Athletic Club • Sevilla 1-1 Levante
Real Sociedad revel in Griezmann flop
For some players of La Real, who had the youth team coach in charge while David Moyes haggled over money (but don't worry, here's here now!), the victory over Atlético Madrid was more pleasurable as Antoine Griezmann was on the losing side. The former Sociedadite cuts quite an unpopular figure in Anoeta, despite all that the Frenchman achieved at the club, including almost single-handedly pushing them into the Champions League. Midfielder David Zurutuza published a photograph on Twitter which showed his team-mates celebrating the victory together, including a lonely looking Griezmann.
Real Sociedad 2-1 Atletico Madrid
Careless Villarreal punished again
Two weeks ago, three points were lost and two goals conceded by Villarreal in the final minutes against Sevilla. Two more were shot out of the torpedo tubes of carelessness by the Yellow Submarine on Sunday after a late, sloppy goal was conceded in Cornella against Espanyol.
“It’s not bad luck, but our fault,” admitted Bruno Soriano, gazing at a virtual world which could have had Villarreal sitting comfortably atop a 20-point pile.
Espanyol 1-1 Villarreal