La Review: Bale bears the brunt, Valencia go all Atlético, Villarreal give up
And so it's all over. At least for a couple of weeks anyway, when there could well be a couple more Clásicos on the horizon if PSG and Atlético Madrid oblige accordingly in the Champions League. Once again, El Clásico was an enormous amount of fun. It even had bouts of fisticuffs that made even LLL all nostalgic for the good old days of Mourinho vs Pep at their niggliest.
Although Barcelona defeated a tiring Real Madrid, whose engine room of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric had spluttered to a halt, there were enough crumbs of comfort to keep the pressure off Carlo Ancelotti. One of those is that if the two teams end up tied at the top, then Madrid will come out with a superior head-to-head record – quite a handy tool to keep in the sack.
Here’s some more moans and groans from the game, and an attempt to shine some light on the previously-invisible nine other matches from the weekend...
Bale gets finger of blame in another damp display
Of course it is more polite to highlight all the positive performances in the Clásico. LLL particularly enjoyed those of Marcelo and Karim Benzema from the Madrid side, and Luis Suárez and Claudio Bravo from the Catalan club. However, there is no fun at all with positive plaudits. Instead, there is greater joy to be had in participating in, or at least following, the blame game in Spain.
The big loser on the Madrid side is poor Gareth Bale, who on an alternative timeline might have had a goal were it not chalked off for offside. Instead, the Welshman was a bit of a ball hogger again in the first half and, as Marca put it, “his second half was invisible”, giving the winger just 4.5 out of 10.
It is hard to pick the bad guys from a winning team, but Neymar was largely irritating throughout – a bit of his own ball hogging nearly earned him a slap from Suárez – and Ivan Rakitic let the LLL side down a bit too (the blog is a big of a fan of the Croatian playmaker). Modric shone a little brighter in that particular battle of the Balkans. But overall, pats on the back all around for entertaining LLL for a good 90 minutes. Again.
Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
Valencia follow Atlético playbook
With a single post-match comment, Dani Parejo revealed how Valencia were blasting through the season, picking up 11 wins in 14 games in La Liga with just one defeat in 15. The secret is buying the 'How to win the title the Atlético Madrid way' self-help book from the airport.
“We play each game as if it were the last one in La Liga,” revealed the club captain, detailing the title of chapter three. Incidentally, the first chapter is called 'Be Men! Be Hombres!', followed by 'Wait for Barcelona and Real Madrid to both suck royally'.
There is relentless consistency to Valencia in the second half of the season, helped hugely by not having any midweek commitments but also thanks to some pretty spiffing football, in contrast to the more dogged displays and less easy-on-the-eye displays of Atlético last year. In that way, Valencia have strayed away from the playbook.
Elche 0-4 Valencia
Getafe: Atlético's gift that keeps on giving
Remarkably, the Rojiblancos' early opener via Fernando Torres was the ex-Chelsea man's first in La Liga this term. Yep. The first. The reason why LLL is a little bit chipper about this is that it predicted 15 in all competitions from El Niño. He now needs to hit a proficiency speed matching Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, and that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
“Fernando had to score in La Liga, we have to demand more of him,” noted Diego Simeone after the match. Allowing Torres to score was just the affection Getafe evidently feel for their northern neighbours, and especially Simeone. In the nine matches Atlético have faced Getafe, the Coliseum club have yet to score.
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Getafe
Athletic forwards still misfiring despite win
While they can brag that games can be won without Aritz Aduriz on the pitch after a 2-1 win over Almería – reason enough not to get too overexcited – the team are still reliant on goals from everywhere but the forward line. Saturday’s double came from a midfielder and a defender. Iker Muniain continues to frustrate with just the single league strike from 24 games this season.
Athletic Club 2-1 Almeria
Villarreal sick of Sevilla
When one shot was cleared off the line and another cannoned off the post, it was quite clear that Villarreal weren’t going to get the better of the Andalusian side this season. There have been four matches between the pair – three in the last two weeks in La Liga and the Europa League – and Sevilla have won all four.
Unai Emery’s side are currently hitting a timely sweet spot with just one defeat from 10 games in all competitions. However, in La Liga the side are in stasis in fifth, probably too far away to catch Atlético four points behind but with a six-point cushion over Villarreal in sixth.
However, on the more positive side, it is a handy cushion upon which to mount a crack at retaining the Europa League title, as well as getting into the Champions League through the back door, as it were.
Villarreal 0-2 Sevilla
Rayo shocks Spain with humdrum home game
Well that was boring. No 8-5 wins or 9-0 defeats for Rayo this weekend. Just a simple 1-0 home victory over Málaga. Although Rayo are now looking at sneaking eighth for a stab at a European place – a really bad idea considering the club's resources – being just two wins or so from probable safety this season is reason enough to celebrate.
Rayo Vallecano 1-0 Malaga
Dull Deportivo back in action
One of LLL’s smarter life choices – and there aren't too many of them – was to skip Deportivo hosting Espanyol, with the blog sensing a dog of a game. For once LLL was not wrong. A goalless draw was served, where the most exciting part looked like being the two teams shaking hands before kick-off.
“Deportivo and Espanyol share the points and tedium,” sniffed an unimpressed AS over the Galician side’s sixth goalless draw of the season, and second against the Pericos.
Deportivo La Coruna 0-0 Espanyol
Everything is going wrong for Córdoba
Oh dear. Bottom of the table going into the game at Real Sociedad, what Córdoba didn’t need was a very harsh red card for Aleksander Pantic after six minutes for clipping the heels of an opposition forward. Although that was followed by a surprise goal to put the Andalusians one up, La Real powered forward for a 3-1 win against a team that ended with eight men on the pitch after two late red cards.
Real Sociedad 3-1 Cordoba
Eibar count very small blessings
A goalless draw at Granada may not seem worthy of the Bertie Big Whistles, but it was a goldmine for Eibar, who stopped a slide of eight straight defeats in La Liga.
Granada 0-0 Eibar