The Catalans will probably win La Liga now, says Tim Stannard, but it'll be fun watching Real Madrid try to knock them off their perch...
Real Madrid look set to be unmissable fodder for TV land again as they go back to their tactical roots of scoring more goals than they concede and not worrying too much about what happens at the back.
The ding-dong 4-2 win over Celta Vigo was a tempting sign of things to come this season, as Carlo Ancelotti’s side chase down a relentless Barça who have shades of Atlético consistency about them. Here’s what else tinkled the blog’s fancy this week...
Barcelona’s slide onto sofa of contentment
Possibly the last big hurdle in Barcelona's title bid – at least until the final round against Atlético – was a little less traumatic than the clashes against Celta, Sevilla and Valencia which all saw fingernails chewed down and bashing missives of relief on Twitter.
Rather than hanging on for dear life here, Barça took the initiative against Espanyol, grabbed two first-half goals in Atlético Madrid style, and then proceeded to see out the end of the match without too much kerfuffle. The only drama to ruffle feathers was Jordi Alba being all with the big trousers, getting sent off for kicking a ball away and being a bit mouthy with the ref.
Of course, all the good work over the past month was then ruined on Sunday by fate-tempting Sport editorial. “Barcelona are unstoppable,” it parped. “Their superiority is unquestionable.” The rest was a lot of old guff about the players being in complete control of every aspect of every game right now. Which is a little bit different to how LLL remembers April.
Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona
Chicharito in divine form for Real Madrid
There's shades of the 2006/07 La Liga campaign here, with comebacks on the cards in Real Madrid’s final sprint to pinch the Primera trophy from Barça’s hands.
Los Blancos were put through the wringer by Celta Vigo, the feistiest of clubs on their day, and at a ground where the capital club had always struggled.
And in a move that's either going to irk Cristiano Ronaldo or just give him some kind of inner peace, Chicharito was the man of the moment again, popping up with two fine strikes to add to Wednesday's winner against Atlético Madrid. And despite a season mainly spent on the bench with a lot of fun poked in his direction, the Mexican striker has suddenly become a pivotal player in the absence of the injured Karim Benzema.
Whether or not Chicharito stays in Mordor is a question for the big agent in the sky, who is currently dealing with Florentino Pérez. “God will see if I will be here one year at Real Madrid, or many,” said the striker.
Celta Vigo 2-4 Real Madrid
Diego Simeone still proud of his “team of men”
Wonderful stuff; a higher level than LLL ever thought was possible. But not Atlético’s 3-0 win over Elche to extend a run of just one defeat in 15 in La Liga games. And not even a third consecutive Primera brace for the splendidly-coiffured Antoine Griezmann.
What really got LLL feeling tingly was Diego Simeone upping his game in the machismo stakes. This wasn’t a time for merely talking about having a team of men – his usual fall-back to praise the squad – and leaving it at that. Instead, the win over Elche came about because “when a team has men they bounce back, and this team has men”. Magnificent.
Atletico Madrid 3-0 Elche
Sevilla currently unstoppable
Not only are Sevilla keeping on in Europe, reaching the Europa League semi-finals, but they're still going great guns in La Liga despite a punishing Thursday-Sunday schedule. Unai Emery’s side are now unbeaten in nine in La Primera matches and even moved into fourth after a solid 2-0 win against Rayo on Sunday, although Valencia are playing on Monday night.
Sevilla 2-0 Rayo Vallecano
Villarreal not as bad as before
LLL is downgrading Villarreal from ‘not very good’ to ‘unlucky’ after the goalless draw against Real Sociedad in which goalkeepers were definitely on top. It leaves the Yellow Submarine without a league win in seven, but with a big enough cushion of seven points over Málaga to not have to worry too much about missing out on Europa League football.
Real Sociedad 0-0 Villarreal
Levante’s ability to score goals is handy
This is not exactly an earth-shattering revelation, but the difference between those middling teams that stay up and those that go down is the ability to score goals. And not concede too many, of course.
For nine of the positions on the pitch, Levante aren't too different from the Almerías and Deportivos of La Liga. But the Valencia club have a couple of back-kicking, bleating old goats of strikers in the shape of David Barral and Víctor Casadesus, two players in their thirties but who know how to grind out goals. It was Casadesus who scored the winner in the 1-0 victory at Getafe to make it 17 league efforts for the pair this season, just four fewer than the entire teams of Granada and Córdoba have mustered.
On 32 points, Levante are by no means stumbling out of the relegation woods, but with home games against Córdoba and Elche to come there's a good chance that the club will scramble its way to another season of struggling next year.
Getafe 0-1 Levante
Córdoba leave a lot to be admired
There is still a lot to like about Córdoba, who continue to fight until the last bean of hope has been squished. The Andalusians were giving it quite the go against visiting Athletic, but an attempt to over-elaborate in defence allowed Beñat to have a pop which ended up taking a nasty deflection. That one had to hurt.
Cordoba 0-1 Athletic Club