FourFourTwo.com's Spanish expert, Tim Stannard, rounds up the weekend's winners and losers from La Liga...
It was a genuine privilege to see and hear the Barcelona boss talking after the victory over AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid that kept the Catalan club on course to equal Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs 100 point total from the previous campaign. Although Vilanova admitted this milestone was not Ã¢ÂÂsuper importantÃ¢ÂÂ, La Liga Loca imagines it will be a pleasing cherry on top of the delicious cake that has been BarÃÂ§a's league campaign, though one that will likely be overlooked in years to come, thanks to the lack of any real opposition for the league crown.
One revealing point made by the Barcelona manager during SundayÃ¢ÂÂs chat with the media was how one of the hardest parts of a title win was the challenge for his players to keep up the momentum throughout the season. Maintaining the hefty gap over both AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid and Real Madrid at the top of the table was was no easy feat.
The blog feels BarÃÂ§a president Sandro Rosell was correct in saying that Ã¢ÂÂwhen people look back on this league title with a bit of perspective and time, it will grow in value every day,Ã¢ÂÂ due to the many setbacks that the club has suffered both of a sporting and human nature, but were able to overcome.
The Valencia striker has now scored in five successive league matches for the first time in the his career. Indeed, Soldado scored twice in his latest outing, knocking in the first two for his team as they strolled to a 4-0 win at Rayo Vallecano. The victory moved Valencia into fourth, leap-frogging Real Sociedad, who play on Monday night very much under pressure from the persistent men from Mestalla.
Go, go gadget Betis. A 17th league goal of the season for Ruben Castro, gave Betis their first win in five games, boosting what had looked to be a doomed push for a Europa League spot. Ã¢ÂÂWe are the only team that can depend on themselves,Ã¢ÂÂ said a cheerful Pepe Mel, reviewing the pack of clubs behind Betis, which are also on the sniff for a bit of European action next season.
Incredibly - and rather lamentably - SevillaÃ¢ÂÂs goalless draw at MÃÂ¡laga on Sunday night moved Unai EmeryÃ¢ÂÂs men up to eighth and into what will be a European spot, should MÃÂ¡lagaÃ¢ÂÂs UEFA competition ban for next season be upheld. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a truly remarkable feat considering Sevilla have won just the single away match from 18 in la Liga. One game. In 18. Just think about that...
The Pucela side have trundled along without too much fanfare this season, but Valladolid have lead an utterly untroubled, professional campaign. This achievement was encapsulated in a solid 1-0 over Deportivo that put the side on 43 points with three games to go. Ã¢ÂÂStaying up is like a title for us,Ã¢ÂÂ exclaimed a delighted Valladolid boss, Miroslav Djukic.
Levante's two matches since the breaking of the match-fixing scandal surrounding the 4-0 home defeat to Deportivo (and possibly the lackluster 1-0 home defeat to Celta Vigo, as well) have produced two hard-fought draws. However, the timing of the affair was not so good for LevanteÃ¢ÂÂs opponents in these matches, Mallorca last week and Zaragoza on Friday night. These are two sides who would have preferred a less Ã¢ÂÂfocussedÃ¢ÂÂ Levante in huge games at the bottom.
The two points in two games have taken a little pressure off a Levante side being scrutinsed very closely due to the aforementioned fixing allegations, and have moved the Valencia club onto a fairly safe 42 point tally.
With a nine point gap between themselves and the relegation zone with three to play, the tremendously unspectacular 2-1 win against a Mallorca side down to ten men for two thirds of the match is probably enough to see out a forgettable campaign in safety for Marcelo BielsaÃ¢ÂÂs side. Ã¢ÂÂThe only good thing was the result. Everything else we did was bad,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted a glum Ariz Aduriz.
What turned out to be the winner for Athletic was only LlorenteaÃ¢ÂÂs first goal in San MamÃÂ©s for the whole season.
What a weekend for the Pamplona club. Relegation rivals Zaragoza, Mallorca, Deportivo and Celta Vigo all dropped points (Granada yet to play, at the time of writing) and Osasuna took advantage by sneaking a giant win against Getafe. It was an old fashioned effort that did the happy deed for Osasuna, with a sneaky touch from a set-piece. Next weekÃ¢ÂÂs clash with Granada is set to be a big one, all right.
Perhaps JosÃÂ© MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs side belong in the Ã¢ÂÂGood DayÃ¢ÂÂ section instead. The league title was lost some time ago, so perhaps Madrid will have taken some pleasure from denying BarÃÂ§a what fun may have obtained by winning the title with a rousing victory in the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n. Instead, Real Madrid rolled over at Espanyol in a 1-1 draw to give BarÃÂ§a the title without having to play.
A knee knack during the Espanyol match sees the French defender missing FridayÃ¢ÂÂs Copa del Rey final. However, it does give the Madrid manager a further opportunity to snub Pepe by playing RaÃÂºl Albiol alongside Sergio Ramos instead, so thereÃ¢ÂÂs a silver lining to every one of MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs dark clouds.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs hard to blame the Rojiblancos for a somnambulant performance against visiting BarÃÂ§a, a side who were just as sleepy. Ã¢ÂÂThe guard of honour lasted all afternoon,Ã¢ÂÂ noted MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs match report.
Third place had already been secured, and there was no need for AtlÃÂ©tico to go out with all guns blazing in the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n, with FridayÃ¢ÂÂs cup final to think about. Despite this, Diego Simeone, must be doubting his teamÃ¢ÂÂs character a little.
Three weeks ago, a disinterested, stripped-down Real Madrid won 2-1 in AtlÃÂ©ticoÃ¢ÂÂs home thanks to an own goal from Juanfran. On Sunday, a shot from David Villa that was going wide by a good two metres was somehow turned in by Gabi, to ease BarÃÂ§a to victory. Ã¢ÂÂLetÃ¢ÂÂs hope he scores again at the other end on Friday,Ã¢ÂÂ joked the teamÃ¢ÂÂs Argentinean manager, although LLL imagines Simeone was less amused at the time.
A goalless draw at home to Sevilla sees MÃÂ¡lagaÃ¢ÂÂs previously impressive league campaign beginning to run out of porridge.
A defensive shambles of a performance for Rayo Vallecano in a midday defeat to visiting Valencia, whose forwards were waved through on goal, like a 747 docking at an airport gate. Ã¢ÂÂI want to apologise to the fans, as we were lacking the freshness we had before,Ã¢ÂÂ announced coach, Paco JÃÂ©mez, after the match.
A goalless draw at Levante on Friday night was not quite what the doctor ordered for Zaragoza, although other results later in the weekend did go for the struggling side. Ã¢ÂÂIt doesnÃ¢ÂÂt really do that much for us,Ã¢ÂÂ Zaragoza goalkeeper Roberto said of their single point.
Although referees are being blamed for DeportivoÃ¢ÂÂs recent problems (by Deportivo), it is poor form that is really the cause of them picking up just three points from 12. Mallorca and Celta Vigo already look doomed, and Depor are next in line for the chop, if this carries on much longer.
The harsh fact of the matter is that SundayÃ¢ÂÂs 1-0 loss to Betis leaves Celta with one buttock sat in the second division. The Galicia club are three points from safety with only have two matches left, with next weekÃ¢ÂÂs game having been played last Wednesday due to AtlÃÂ©tico MadridÃ¢ÂÂs participation in the Copa del Rey final. Ã¢ÂÂWhile thereÃ¢ÂÂs still a ray of hope, weÃ¢ÂÂll have to try everything,Ã¢ÂÂ promised Celta boss, Abel Resino.
Not much is going right for the Mallorca boss these days. The Balearic club lost defender, FontÃÂ¡s, after 23 minutes for a nonexistent handball which triggered the second of two yellows for the footballer. Mallorca battled but came away with a 2-1 defeat to keep the side at the bottom with just 29 points. Ã¢ÂÂWe lost and we are leaving here sad, but with out heads held high,Ã¢ÂÂ claimed Manzano after SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs defeat.
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