Another Bad Day for Barça as Espanyol enjoy an amorous afternoon
JosÃÂ© Manuel Pinto
The much-maligned BarÃÂ§a goalkeeper could well be a busy bee for a couple of la Liga games, after a classic VÃÂctor ValdÃÂ©s meltdown saw 'the short-tempered one' yelling unmentionables at the referee following SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs ClÃÂ¡sico clash. The Madrid press are busy tutting and shaking their heads over the incident, although Ã¢ÂÂyou have no shameÃ¢ÂÂ - one of the comments ValdÃÂ©s is accused of aiming at the official - is exactly what JosÃÂ© MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs assistant, Rui Faria, yelled at the same referee after a recent Valencia Copa del Rey clash. Certainly not suggesting any hypocrisy or short memories here...
A tough call, with both AtlÃÂ©tico and MÃÂ¡laga probably fairly happy with a goalless draw, but the Rojiblancos grabbed a tough point in Andalusia four days after a challenging Copa del Rey semi-final victory in Andalusia. But MÃÂ¡laga will be a tad concerned that they havenÃ¢ÂÂt scored in the past three games - with Porto, Betis and now AtlÃÂ©tico able to keep them at bay.
This is getting very confusing. Technically speaking, BarÃÂ§a are still 13 points ahead of Madrid, and should be all with the Ã¢ÂÂso-whatÃ¢ÂÂ after a defeat at the Santiago BernabÃÂ©u. Instead, the records show that a Real Madrid Ã¢ÂÂreserveÃ¢ÂÂ team - featuring cheapie cast-offs such as KakÃÂ¡, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric - beat a fully loaded BarÃÂ§a to make it just one defeat in the past eight matches.
The daylight encounter was a largely sluggish affair, mirroring the fact that the sixth ClÃÂ¡sico of the season was the least important match of the Primera round in terms of league position. But a late goal from Sergio Ramos and a rather controversial decision to deny Alexis SÃÂ¡nchez a penalty gave Real Madrid the victory and denied BarÃÂ§a the opportunity to pick up a point.
While Real Madrid can certainly be encouraged by two wins over BarÃÂ§a in five days, thereÃ¢ÂÂs a big Ã¢ÂÂCareful Now!Ã¢ÂÂ sign ahead, with Manchester United considerably more competent that Barcelona at present. Tuesday night could see Madrid 13 points behind their Catalan rivals with just a Copa del Rey final to show for the season, despite the clear euphoria in the Madridista world ahead of TuesdayÃ¢ÂÂs Old Trafford event.
Real Sociedad & Betis
After what was a rather stodgy Sunday, with two goalless draws, these two teams served up a corker in the final match of the day. Betis surprised themselves so much in taking a two goal lead that the team promptly lost it, going 3-2 down after a now fashionable Panenka penalty from Xabi Prieto. But PabÃÂ³n scored his second of the night to level the scores in what Betis boss Pepe Mel described as Ã¢ÂÂa great game. Both teams could have won and lost.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂIf it was boxing, we would have won on points,Ã¢ÂÂ claimed his Sociedad counterpart, Philippe Montanier.
Club captain, Jaime GavilÃÂ¡n, revealed that talk of Europe was banned in the dressing room - although the Harlem Shake wasnÃ¢ÂÂt - as every time the word is brought up Ã¢ÂÂwe brick ourselvesÃ¢ÂÂ. A bit like one of those low frequency amplifiers the blog once read about. Mops may be needed soon, as FridayÃ¢ÂÂs 2-0 win over Getafe sees the club with three wins from three and four from five.
Levante remain undefeated in the past four meetings with city rivals Valencia in Mestalla, a fact that must be fairly irksome to that part of the city, not always known for patience and understanding.
Espanyol & Valladolid
Both managers were a little chuffed after a goalless draw Marca suggested almost had the crowd shouting Ã¢ÂÂlet them kissÃ¢ÂÂ - the sign of a clash where neither side have any real desire to win.
Athletic really, really, really needed the 1-0 victory at Osasuna. Really needed it. Honestly. Three defeats had headlines openly discussing the immediate future of Marcelo Bielsa, however a fine volley from Susaeta in a pumped and primed affair in Pamplona gave Athletic a victory after three straight league defeats. The Athletic boss spoke of heart and soul getting his players through, admitting that Ã¢ÂÂthe parameters used to evaluate the meritsÃ¢ÂÂ were not in AthleticÃ¢ÂÂs favour. LLL thinks Bielsa is referring to Ã¢ÂÂstatsÃ¢ÂÂ.
The last minute winner from the Israeli striker in the 2-1 defeat of Granada was the forwardÃ¢ÂÂs first effort in la Liga since the middle of November, and just MallorcaÃ¢ÂÂs second victory since the end of September. LLL is not sure itÃ¢ÂÂs going to make too much difference to the clubÃ¢ÂÂs survival chances with Real Madrid and Barcelona just around the corner, but a victory away from home canÃ¢ÂÂt do any harm.
A golden opportunity to get some instant payback against a Madrid side that was without Mesut ÃÂzil, Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di MarÃÂa in the starting line-up. Heck, even JosÃÂ© CallejÃÂ³n was playing, Madrid were that relaxed. But BarÃÂ§a were a shadow of themselves. There was tons of pretty, pointless passing, but absolutely no end product aside from a through ball to Leo Messi from Dani Alves that looked so simple, itÃ¢ÂÂs a wonder by BarÃÂ§a canÃ¢ÂÂt do it all the time.
The reaction in the Barcelona to the press was split between the nonsensical and Mundo Deportivo that moaned about the penalty decision and grumbled about Ã¢ÂÂtheft, scandal and refereeing manipulation.Ã¢ÂÂ Sport were able to see the bigger picture with SundayÃ¢ÂÂs front cover fretting over Ã¢ÂÂno ideas, no direction, no attitude...and just 10 days to fix it.Ã¢ÂÂ
The tiny-bearded striker didnÃ¢ÂÂt exactly do himself or others calling for a starting role any favours with a bit of a flat performance in the Santiago BernabÃÂ©u. Then again, Villa was in good company in that department.
That had to hurt. 2-1 up to pesky neighbours Levante thanks to an absolute stormer of a goal from Roberto Soldado, before a defensive slip (quite literally) let JosÃÂ© Javier Barkero through with a minute left on the clock. Ã¢ÂÂFootball has been hard on us,Ã¢ÂÂ grumbled Valencia boss, Ernesto Valverde.
Yet another one of the Zaragoza managers Ã¢ÂÂfinalsÃ¢ÂÂ previously spoken about was lost in a rather piddling 2-0 defeat to Getafe. The Aragon outfit have not won in nine now and could well end up in the relegation zone should Celta beat Sevilla on Monday night. This provoked an outburst from JimÃÂ©nez suggesting that anyone without the cojones for the fight Ã¢ÂÂjump the ship.Ã¢ÂÂ
Well, itÃ¢ÂÂs a point and the sideÃ¢ÂÂs first clean sheet in seven games, however the goalless draw at home to Rayo Vallecano didnÃ¢ÂÂt do the GalicianÃ¢ÂÂs any good at all. Indeed the home side was perhaps lucky not to end up with a defeat after Rayo missed a number of chances in the first half. Ã¢ÂÂThe situation is severe...everyone knows it,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted manager Fernando Vazquez, who had a bad Saturday all round after his car was towed away from the stadium having been illegally parked.