Five more years of El Cholo in La Liga, everyone – but there's some fishy goings-on too, writes Tim Stannard...
La Liga Loca tends to prefer a nice, sedate midweek before it winds down at the weekend. And for once that’s what the blog got, rather than stories of irate presidents grumpily ranting to the media that they should be a little bit more North Korean in their coverage of a particular club.
Everyone in La Liga behaved themselves this week, much to the delight of the blog. Atlético Madrid played the most dogged, most digging-in, most Atlético Madrid game they have managed for some time in taking Bayer Leverkusen to penalties in the Champions League.
Instead of a losing, end-of-an-era narrative for Diego Simeone and the Rojiblancos, the current talk is of a new deal running to 2020 for the Argentine, and an easy passage through to the semi-finals if Real Madrid are drawn out of the Champions League hat on Friday. To be fair, all the talk of that last bit is purely in LLL’s empty head.
Barcelona brought out their best dinner plates for the visit of Manchester City. An uncharacteristically good display at the top level from an English goalkeeper prevented the Catalan club scoring a hatful against Manuel Pellegrini’s side. This left the Catalan press swooning over the magnificence of Leo Messi again, who resembled, as noted by Craig Burley on ESPN, “the big kid at school playing with kids five or six years younger”.
Cristiano Ronaldo was in formidable form as well - at least according to Marca, anyway. The paper panted that the forward – off to MLS in 2018 and Manchester United in the summer, apparently – is hot to trot and scoring bagfulls in training. In fact, Carlo Ancelotti was so happy with how the players performed at Valdebebas that the Italian bought a big seafood lunch for them. Because nothing ever goes wrong with seafood lunches at a city that's about 700 miles from the nearest coast.
In the league's lower reaches, Córdoba decided to wiggle themselves even further into the relegation mire. Not content with the players losing their last eight matches, the Andalusians sacked their second manager of the season. Miroslav Djukic was binned on Monday after just 19 games - a spell which brought a return of just 14 points from a possible 57. “If you change the coach twice and things still don’t change, it is symptomatic of other problems,” noted the outgoing Serb.
Another quiet season at Getafe
Getafe continue to be wonderfully weird this year. The campaign has seen the team’s best player benched because his wages are too high for a quota, a manager being sold to China, and another walking out after just a few weeks. This week’s adventures kicked off with a story of Spanish Football League president, Javier Tebas, suggesting that the Getafe president was taking action against some parties over suspicious match-fixing activity from a game in the 2012/13 season.
The match in question was at the end of the season against a Zaragoza side (already on trial for other misdemeanors) that needed to stay up. A heroic performance from the visitors at the Coliseum saw a 2-0 win, helped by Getafe getting three players sent off.
On Wednesday, Getafe president Angel Torres denied any such conversation with the league boss, claiming: “I have a clear conscience.”