Good Day, Bad Day: Barça blow, cry baby Cristiano & barking Bielsa
The striker is the current French toast of the town - no, he hasn't been covered in egg yolk, though whatever the on-fire forward does in his own free time is his business. It was Benzema who kick-started MadridÃ¢ÂÂs midweek comeback against MÃÂ¡laga in the cup and it was the Frenchman who was the best of a bad bunch with a brace against Granada in a 5-1 win that gave Madrid a five point lead at the top of the table.
JosÃÂ© MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs men were equally as lethargic as the side that was so dramatically blasted by the coach after TuesdayÃ¢ÂÂs game, and found that Granada were quite hard-to-handle with the tie relatively open until the opening minutes of the second half. Fortunately for Madrid, the teamÃ¢ÂÂs league campaign is not the most challenging in January so the players have plenty more opportunities for a yawn, stretch and nut scratch before polishing off their opposition.
Although Levante could only manage a goalless draw at home to Mallorca - mainly thanks a great display from goalkeeper Gustavo MunÃÂºa - draws for Osasuna and MÃÂ¡laga and a defeat for Sevilla meant that the damage from two dropped points was limited.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs a very happy new year for Paul from Barcelona, who was at Cornella El-Prat to see what was a fairly newsworthy event in the Catalan capital.
Ã¢ÂÂCall it poetic justice, fate or chickens coming home to roost. I myself prefer to see it as Ã¢ÂÂlive by the sword, die by the swordÃ¢ÂÂ. Yes, it was a penalty. Yes, it was handball (more later) but a quick history lesson sees the ref's decision as par for the course, but what's different here is that it went against BarÃÂ§a.
In 15 years of attending these games that's the first big decision that's gone in Espanyol's favour. So, I think fair is fair. On the subject of handballs, Leo Messi's reaction to his cheating is priceless. Best leading actor surely ?
BarÃÂ§a seemed strangely subdued last night. Was it the atmosphere - not as hostile as two years ago but still pretty intimidating - the Christmas break or Espanyol's tactics? Messi looked bored, Alexis cost how much! Xavi and AndrÃÂ©s Iniesta don't seem to have left feet. Playing three at the back didn't seem to work. If Espanyol had had a half decent striker instead of Thievy, the result could have been very different.
Hats off to Pochettino. Got his tactics spot on, especially second half when he brought on Javi LÃÂ³pez who had a blinder. Sergio GarcÃÂa and Jordi Amat also stood out for me. The ref was ok in parts (especially at the end) but the linesman who spotted Messi's cheating, hand-to-ball not ball-to-hand like RaÃÂºl RodrÃÂguez, had a 'mare. He gave a foul against Thievy when Puyol miscontrolled it and a blatant foul on the same player by PiquÃÂ© right on the edge of the area.
Well done to Pep for taking the result with good grace and Sandro Rosell too despite his recent mad speech in Qatar. I've now seen the top two live and one looked way better than the other. Wasn't the one I was expecting to be honest.Ã¢ÂÂ
A bad result for the Athletic boss, but a Ã¢ÂÂgood dayÃ¢ÂÂ prize for Bielsa for being so highly entertaining during SundayÃ¢ÂÂs afternoon game and keeping LLL more than occupied during a fairly plodding goalless draw with Getafe.
Not once did Bielsa sit on the visitorÃ¢ÂÂs bench. Instead, Argentinean spent the Getafe clash crouching down at either side of the dugout and hugging the sides, along with the occasional squat by the touchline. As one Twitterer suggested, a Ã¢ÂÂsquat-offÃ¢ÂÂ with AndrÃÂ©s Villas-Boas would be fine festive entertainment.
LLL was not a huge fan of his tactical changes to Athletic though - Javi MartÃÂnez is wasted at centre-back whilst there was no target man up front until Fernando Llorente was introduced in the second half as the forward recovers from injury.
A 2-0 win over Sporting suggests the decision from the Betis bosses to hang on to Pep Mel despite a run of just one point from thirty in a terrible phase in 2011 was the right one. Sunday eveningÃ¢ÂÂs victory was the clubÃ¢ÂÂs third in a row.
Really hard to know where to stick AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid this week, but for the sake of a bit of a change, itÃ¢ÂÂs a Ã¢ÂÂgood dayÃ¢ÂÂ award for the Rojiblancos despite yet another doomed attempt to win away from home after a goalless draw at MÃÂ¡laga.
Despite just one game in charge, the stamp - no pun intended towards the ArgentineanÃ¢ÂÂs victims during his playing career - of Diego Simeone was clear to see on AtlÃÂ©tico: an awful lot of tough tackling but not too much threat going forward.
There is much talk in the Madrid press in the post match reaction of concentration, intensity and foundations being built but some fancy football is going to be needed next week in a key home clash against Villarreal if Diego SimeoneÃ¢ÂÂs happy relationship with the Atleti fans isnÃ¢ÂÂt going to last as long as a KardashianÃ¢ÂÂs marriage.
It wasnÃ¢ÂÂt a particularly happy holiday in Vallecas after four defeats, a cup knock-out and the players refusing to attend the clubÃ¢ÂÂs Christmas dinner after a dispute over money with the owners. But spirits were certainly higher on Sunday with a boisterous, bustling busy 2-1 win over a lethargic Sevilla in front of truly fantastic fans.
The 1-0 win over Zaragoza - an awful game by most accounts - sees the record of the managerial trio in charge of the team stand at two wins and two draws since the sacking of HÃÂ©ctor CÃÂºper. They are also now out of the relegation zone by a point. Too many cooks? Pah!
Curses! It was all looking rosy for new Villarreal boss JosÃÂ© Molina when his side lead local rivals Valencia 2-1 with just four minutes to go. But then the defence failed to clear their lines and Ariz Aduriz swept the ball home to level matters. Although Villarreal slipped into the relegation zone, a point against a tasty team seems some cause from optimism in el Madrigal.
While one doesnÃ¢ÂÂt want to talk about counting chickens before the fat lady sings, sheÃ¢ÂÂs certainly tucking into a second helping of brownies and custard when it comes to BarcelonaÃ¢ÂÂs title chances. A combination of poor away form, the tendency to switch off during games, a bad recent record against Espanyol and a last minute penalty decision going against the Dream Boys left BarÃÂ§a five points behind Real Madrid after a 1-1 draw in Cornella.
But to be fair to Barcelona there has been very little moaning about the call that saw an unpunished handball from RaÃÂºl RodrÃÂguez. There is a general acceptance that the nothing more was deserved for a starting eleven that was the same as the one that faced Real Madrid, but certainly didnÃ¢ÂÂt put it as much effort.
The Portuguese playerÃ¢ÂÂs extremely pouty response to his first and Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs fifth goal of SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs victory has received a very hostile response in normally friendly waters. Although Aitor Karanka claimed that Ronaldo Ã¢ÂÂwas only angry because not everything worked for him,Ã¢ÂÂ nobody believed JosÃÂ© MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs number two for a second.
Instead, itÃ¢ÂÂs quite clear that Ronaldo is still the incredible sulk after being booed by some sections of the Santiago Bernabeu during el ClÃÂ¡sico in December. Ã¢ÂÂCristiano is a magnificent player but sometimes his pride lets him down,Ã¢ÂÂ tuts AS editor Alfredo RelaÃÂ±o, with colleague 'Mad' TomÃÂ¡s Roncero suggesting that JosÃÂ© Mourinho should "sit down with Cristiano and calm him down.Ã¢ÂÂ
Marca were equally as critical with SundayÃ¢ÂÂs editorial suggesting that Ã¢ÂÂif Cristiano doesnÃ¢ÂÂt like how the Madrid fans express themselves, the worst thing he can do is show it in the celebration of a goal.Ã¢ÂÂ
Supporters in the stadium heard the racist noises aimed at Barcelona's Dani Alves, TV viewers heard them too. But it appears nobody else did, not even the Brazilian himself.
Ã¢ÂÂI was very focussed on the game and didnÃ¢ÂÂt hear anything. I never hear what goes on around me, but it took place then I condemn it. We hope to get rid of this kind of behaviour,Ã¢ÂÂ said Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino after the game.
This seasonÃ¢ÂÂs MÃÂ¡laga isnÃ¢ÂÂt actually that good - notable exceptions such as Isco and Santi Cazorla aside - but a few decent results could see la LigaÃ¢ÂÂs nouveau rich team making the Champions League places, which are just five points away, simply because everyone else around them is equally as disappointing or - as in in Osasuna and Levante's case - will probably lose form as the season goes on.
The Sevilla managerÃ¢ÂÂs instincts are always to avoid defeat rather than go for the win, and this is costing MarcelinoÃ¢ÂÂs men badly, with the club now on a run of three league defeats. In the final half an hour, Sevilla showed how well they can go forward when two strikers are played after the introduction of Freddie KanoutÃÂ©, but it was too little, too late despite Marcelino after the game talking about luck and the size of the Vallecas pitch.
They may have a new manager in Manolo JimÃÂ©nez, but the result was the same - a defeat, the clubÃ¢ÂÂs eleventh in 17 games. Ã¢ÂÂNo football, no heart and no soul,Ã¢ÂÂ blasted the match report from AS on a team that are bottom of the table with just ten points.
If Zaragoza look set to take up the first relegation spot then Sporting could well be claiming the second. The away defeat to Sporting makes it just one win a five for Sporting.