Barça resort to 'Plan T', Ronaldo gets battered, Sevilla throw it away

Good Day

Cristian Tello and Thiago Alcántara
Monday's Sport saw Barça's 3-0 win at Zaragoza as the club's 'Plan T', with the starting line-up not featuring Leo Messi, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Pedro or David Villa. While the performances from the winger have been impressive for much of the season, it's only in the past couple of weeks that the playmaker has started to deliver. Thiago opened the scoring after 20 minutes in La Romareda and Tello banged in a brace to keep Barcelona 13 points clear at the top of the table. "There is a future," purred Josep Maria Casanovas in Sport on Sunday's dynamic duo.

Cristiano Ronaldo
The big debate at the Santiago Bernabéu: are Real Madrid 'Ronaldo-dependent' or is the Madrid forward just very, very good and always likely to score more than everyone else, irrespective of the who plays alongside him? The comfortable 3-0 win in San Mamés against Athletic continued Madrid's remarkably good run of form in Bilbao, with seven la Liga victories in the past eight games. In fact, this was the third 3-0 victory in a row.
Ronaldo would have enjoyed much of this encounter too. The Madrid man was on the receiving end of a bit of a battering from Athletic, but responded with a good old moan at the referee and a couple of goals. The Portuguese looked quite chuffed as he left the pitch, despite being substituted, with things getting just a little bit too fruity for a footballer who should have been smothered in bubble wrap with the Champions League in mind.

After a few wobbles and no-shows in recent matches, both Atlético Madrid and Falcao needed that 5-0 dolloping of Granada in a stuffed, sunny Vicente Calderón. With the club focussing on a promotion which saw the team’s youngest fans encouraged to enjoy a bit of football, there was much talk of “child’s play” in the Madrid press on Monday morning after the victory.

Imanol Agirretxe
Unbelievable, Brian. Real Sociedad just keep on going and going and going and going. Sunday’s 2-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano, thanks to a brace from Agirretxe, continued a run of 12 matches unbeaten for the Basque side, who have suffered just a single defeat in 20 matches. “There are seven games left and we know it is going to be difficult, but if we keep going forward with the same mentality, we can do it,” said a chirpy Real Sociedad boss, Philippe Montanier, after the match.

Julio Baptista
A 1-0 win over Osasuna thanks to a strike from Julio Baptista in the final seconds of the game was a performance that took stones from Málaga, after the disappointment of Tuesday night. The Osasuna-shaped opponents were under the cosh for much of the match, but Málaga kept their peckers up right to the end and were rewarded with a result that keeps the side in fifth.

Betis & Sevilla
Friday’s Seville derby was as mad as a bag of puppies, but both sides get into the Good Day section despite moments that had both managers crying ‘noooooooooooooo’ while suffering flashbacks as they awoke the following morning.
Betis contrived to see themselves 3-0 down within 32 minutes, before pulling the scoreline back to 3-3. Sevilla contrived to flush two points down the loo despite being 3-0 up after 32 minutes. Pepe Mel gave the middle finger to an unknown entity in the crowd; “you know who it was to, as much as I do,” hinted the Betis boss. Meanwhile, opposite number Unai Emery aged 20 years in 90 minutes; “it feels like a defeat,” he uttered, gloomily.
With all the Andalusian dust now settled, an analysis suggests that the point still keeps Betis trundling along in European qualification contention and sees the side with a big distraction out of the way, but Sevilla continue with a poor record away from home that has produced just the single victory from 16 games.

Ivan Rakitic
Aside from Friday’s result, it wasn't a bad week for Sevilla’s Croatian midfielder, who got married and then knocked in two goals in 20 minutes in the city derby.

A second 3-3 of the weekend and yet more beautiful madness on Saturday night in Cornella. Javier Aguirre’s side looked beaten when Soldado gave Valencia the lead in the 91st minute, only for Sergio García to pop up with an equaliser in the dying moments of a stonking match. “It was Sergio’s, but the whole stadium created it,” declared the side’s Mexican manager, who has now pulled out five wins and four draws at home to put the Pericos just one more victory from virtual safety for the season.

Valladolid scrapped to a 2-1 win over Getafe in a fixture between two teams who seem to go about their business without anyone really noticing. For Valladolid coach Miroslav Djukic though, the victory was “the most important of the season”, with the result arriving after three straight defeats, a string of results that threatened to put the club in the group marked ‘could still get sucked into the relegation battle’.

La Liga Loca suspects it might just write “they couldn’t, could they?” for the Deportivo update every week, to save the blog a precious bit of time. The 4-0 win at Levante was the fourth straight win for the Galicians and by far the easiest of the victories and lifted the team out of the relegation zone for the first time since the end of November.

Bad Day

Two points were won in the last few seconds of last week’s clash with Valladolid due to an incorrectly taken throw-in. But the swings and roundabouts principle of football came back to bite the Mestalla side on the backside after Sergio García’s late, late, late equaliser ruled out what looked like being a late, late winning effort from Roberto Soldado. “We only had to defend a couple more balls,” lamented Valencia boss Ernesto Valverde, after a result that sees the east coast club losing ground on fourth-placed Real Sociedad.

The Betis midfielder managed to get the eternally red card-able Gary Medel sent off after suffering massive bruising and cranial trauma from a horrendous very light touch to the face from the Sevilla midfielder during the squabble. LLL’s thoughts are with the enormous girl’s blouse in the footballer’s recovery.

A first defeat in eight for Getafe with both of the two goals conceded to Valladolid being quite avoidable complained Luis García. “We studied the play for Oscar’s goal at least 15 times in the morning,” revealed the Getafe boss in what sounds like a thrilling breakfast. 

Juan Ignacio Martínez
Strangely subdued stuff from Levante in the 4-0 home defeat to Deportivo, with some supporters booing the side - a little harsh - and manager, Juan Ignacio Martínez, grumbling that “perhaps I confused them with mixed messages to the group. It was the worst match I’ve seen, since I’ve been here.”

Fernando Llorente
Just the third league start of the season for the Basque striker and it showed with a former great being a peripheral figure in the defeat to Real Madrid. You know things are working for you as a forward man when you are losing a battle with Raúl Albiol.

Five defeats from six, with the most recent being at Málaga, puts Osasuna back into the relegation frame. “We’re feeling torn about by the manner of the defeat,” admitted Osasuna boss, José Luis Mendilibar, after Saturday’s late match.

Each week, the message from the Zaragoza camp is that the players are focussed and ready to respond to the crisis the club finds itself in after a 2013 that has yet to produce a victory. Sunday's visit of Barcelona was always going to be a tough ask for Zaragoza, no matter the first teamers rested by the Catalan club but Manolo Jiménez complained that his team didn't really make matters any easier for themselves. "We were inferior from the first minute," complained the Zaragoza boss, whose side slipped into the relegation zone. "I won't be letting anyone give up."