Clonk! Clink! Spain's Big Two are swapping points like tennis players but, says Tim Stannard, it might go the full five sets...
If Barça fans are looking for someone to thank for the Real Madrid slip-up that opened up the title race again then they can look to La Liga Loca, and send nice pressies to FourFourTwo in the process. Speaking to a huge Villarreal supporter, the blog revealed that it occasionally found the team a little... dull... this season - and the opinion was reciprocated with some relief. So, of course, Villarreal had to poo-poo this notion - and then some.
And so the weekend was made with a surprise at the Bernabéu, a near-miracle down the road at Rayo and poor Deportivo doing everything possible to score... but failing in the end.
Advantage Barça as top two take on tennis
RESULTS, Week 25
Merciful Zeus! La Liga is in severe danger of having an interesting title race for two years in a row, with Barça and Real Madrid swapping advantage points like two deadlocked tennis players.
Last week, after Barça dropped points to Málaga, Madrid were in the “if we win all our games, we win La Liga” zone of contentment. Now it’s Barcelona in the box seat after Madrid were rammed by the Yellow Submarine and nearly scuppered on Sunday. However, there's plenty of scope for both teams to foul up some more between now and then.
In fact LLL should be plonked on the naughty step for using the term “foul-up”, as the danger of commenting on the Big Two dropping points is to assume that it was the fault of the former rather than the fight and finesse of their foes. That's very much the case with Villarreal, who went all for nothing at the Santiago Bernabéu and very nearly won all three points there for the first time in the club’s history.
The bleating scapegoats for the 1-1 draw are Carlo Ancelotti - Italian, after all - and a little bit more frustration in the direction of Gareth Bale, especially for one effort: spooned over the bar, it was more suitable for the Six Nations.
The advantage in this intriguing tussle may be with Barça again, but this is a game that is going to go on for a heck of a long time before match point.
Real Madrid 1-1 Villarreal
Granada 1-3 Barcelona
Diego Simeone was right all along
LLL isn't sure how that happened, and to be honest, isn't entirely sure how to deal with it. The ‘that’ and the ‘it’ are Atlético potentially losing third place after Valencia snuck up to just the one point behind the Rojiblancos, with the two teams facing off next weekend at the Vicente Calderón. The blog was somehow imagining a 12-point gulf, showing how much it is has been underestimating the Mestalla side this year.
Over the weekend, Valencia had a rather comfy 2-0 win over Real Sociedad, a fourth league victory in a row, while Atlético's traditionally rumbustious clash in the Sánchez Pizjuán against dear old friends Sevilla ended in a goalless draw.
Diego Simeone certainly wasn’t caught out by the league table position, though: the Argentinian has been saying all along that his eye is firmly on Valencia and Sevilla rather than Real Madrid and Barcelona. It’s just that Atleti had been so successful of late, the feeling was that he might have been using some Jedi mind tricks. Apparently not: Simeone is Truth Speaker.
Sevilla 0-0 Atletico Madrid
Valencia 2-0 Real Sociedad
Will it be no more Mr Nice Guy for Luis Suárez?
Hopefully Leo Messi gave his Uruguayan team-mate a big hug after the Granada win. Ideally, Ivan Rakitic would have been wrapped up in the same embrace, but LLL isn't sure that Messi’s little T-Rex arms would fit around both bodies.
The Croatian opened the scoring then set up Suárez for Barça’s second - a lovely dinked effort - before the former Liverpool man played perhaps the most unselfish pass in the history of the world to Messi to give Barça three points in a game that could have been a tricksy one for the Catalan club.
That perhaps explains why Suárez was not a happy bunny at all on being substituted during the victory with 11 minutes to go. However, if Luis Enrique was in spin-doctor mode, he may have wanted to sell the swap as a way of protecting his biggest asset for the midweek cup clash against Villarreal.
Granada 1-3 Barcelona
Rayo continue to be the most fun club to watch
Increasingly wonderful Rayo boss Paco Jémez has a fondness for setting up his sides to lose games heavily or win with panache and aplomb. Here, a team full of attacking intent overran Levante 4-2 - and Jémez then revealed that he will play exactly the same way against Barcelona at the Camp Nou next weekend.
If Alberto Bueno repeats his performance from Saturday then the world really would have gone to la-la-land as the Rayo forward whacked in a truly remarkable four goals in 16 minutes. “He’s the top Spanish scorer so Vicente del Bosque will have to take this into account,” noted the Rayo boss, almost certainly not joking.
Rayo Vallecano 4-2 Levante
Deportivo continue to be in desperate straits
Poor Depor. LLL can’t even brand them Dull Depor as was the side run by Lord of Gloom, Miguel Angel Lotina, a few years back. The Galicians tried and tried and tried and tried to score against Almería - 10 shots on target by the end - but nothing went in. That now makes it 12 matches in which poor Deportivo have failed to trouble the scoreboard, despite the fact that Helder Postiga has barely played this season and will continue to be absent due to injury.
Almeria 0-2 Deportivo