Good Day, Bad Day: Barça blow title & Ronaldo gets a BFF
RESULTS Sat 11 Feb Racing Santander 0-0 AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid; Osasuna 3-2 Barcelona; Real Betis 2-1 Athletic Bilbao Sun 12 Feb Espanyol 0-2 Real Zaragoza; MÃÂ¡laga 3-1 Mallorca; Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Getafe; Valencia 4-0 Sporting GijÃÂ³n; Villarreal 3-1 Granada; Real Madrid 4-2 Levante Mon 13 Feb 8pm Real Sociedad v Sevilla
Marca's readers regularly vote the preening Portuguese Ã¢ÂÂplayer of the weekÃ¢ÂÂ no matter what he's done. For instance, Ronaldo topped the poll after last week's 1-0 win over Getafe Ã¢ÂÂ when he wasnÃ¢ÂÂt even the best player for Real Madrid, never mind the best in the division.
For once, he may well deserve the accolade after Sunday's hat-trick against Levante Ã¢ÂÂ his sixth treble this season. But what really seemed to make Ronaldo smile from ear to perfectly-tanned ear was that the Santiago Bernabeu crowd sang the footballerÃ¢ÂÂs name for once, making them officially BFF.
LLL supposes the team gets a Good Day slot, what with the whole probably-winning-the-league business after BarcelonaÃ¢ÂÂs defeat.
LetÃ¢ÂÂs just say that, after WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs cup knock-out against Barcelona, anything other than a home victory against Sporting would have been very unpopular among the fans. It may have taken an own goal and two in added time, but Valencia delivered.
Lost at Real Madrid but their plucky performance in the Santiago Bernabeu, coupled with the fact that they're still fourth in the league despite not winning any of their nine league games since 10th December, means that it was still probably a very good day for Levante.
The playmaking centre of everything fluffy, decent and good for an AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid team who easily deserved to beat Racing by some margin. Instead the woodwork, iffy finishing and a brilliant opposition goalkeeper combined to create a third goalless draw for AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid under Diego Simeone - but at least it wasnÃ¢ÂÂt a Deportivo-style goalless draw. The Rojiblancos are now six games unbeaten, because it's six games since they conceded a goal. Impressive to say the least.
A 3-1 win over Mallorca puts MÃÂ¡laga just one point from the Champions League places. Which is outrageously jammy considering the money spent and the fact that Manuel PellegriniÃ¢ÂÂs side have only picked up two victories in the past nine.
A classic smash and grab from Osasuna, whose bustling and impressive attacking performance against Barcelona will probably be overshadowed by much handwringing and wailing in the Catalan capital over another a failure on the road for the champions.
As JosÃÂ© Luis Mendilibar noted after the victory, the win was down to hard work and a fair amount of fouling Ã¢ÂÂ which is why LLL will always have a soft spot for the Pamplona club, who are now one point off the Champions League places.
Michu and Diego Costa
Both players scored in RayoÃ¢ÂÂs 2-0 win against Getafe and look a formidable front two. Coach JosÃÂ© RamÃÂ³n Sandoval claims he's still looking down the table rather than up, despite being just three points from the European places; then again, about 12 teams are in the same mid-table boat, so thatÃ¢ÂÂs probably a good plan.
The Seville side needed that one. An injury-time winner against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday night slowed a slide down the table after five matches without a win.
A four-match unbeaten run including three victories, the latest being SundayÃ¢ÂÂs 3-1 victory over Granada: life looks a little better for Villarreal, who are now just six points off the Champions League places. Which is quite mad, really, considering the dogÃ¢ÂÂs droppings of a season itÃ¢ÂÂs been for the Yellow Submarine.
Racing's glove-wearer gave a goalkeeping display so good that tough-as-boots AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid boss Diego Simeone waited outside the dressing room, not to rob ToÃÂ±o of his lunch money and give him a wedgie, but to congratulate him for his sterling work in the goalless draw. Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs the first time something like that has happened to be,Ã¢ÂÂ remarked the relieved Racing man. Ã¢ÂÂIt was a very nice gesture.Ã¢ÂÂ
Still going down but the rather unexpected 2-0 win away at Espanyol stopped a run of 14 league games without a victory which stretched back to the 16th of October.
LLL suspects that Pep Guardiola's decision to rest Cesc Fabregas, AndrÃÂ©s Iniesta and Xavi HernÃÂ¡ndez against Osasuna was unavoidable. Despite the Ã¢ÂÂweÃ¢ÂÂll fight until the very endÃ¢ÂÂ exhortations from the Catalan camp, the title race was already all but over.
The situation is that BarÃÂ§a have had three fronts to fight on Ã¢ÂÂ but with an already small squad further depleted by a whole stack of injuries, they don't have enough players. Last Wednesday's win against Valencia means they've reached the Copa del Rey final, but the Champions League knockout round starts on Tuesday with a trip to Bayer Leverkusen: what else is a manager supposed to do but tweak and twonk to get the best results from the available pool of players?
WouldnÃ¢ÂÂt Guardiola have received even more criticism had Iniesta and Xavi played for example and knacked themselves again, missing the Champions League games which Barcelona could then have lost?
Then again, PepÃ¢ÂÂs player gamble might have paid off had Gerard PiquÃÂ© not had a stinker of a match and been at fault for both of Dejan LekicÃ¢ÂÂs goals, which gave Barcelona far too much to do after the sideÃ¢ÂÂs traditional sluggish start on the road.
Home defeat to Zaragoza saw Espanyol blowing the chance to move into the Champions League places despite LevanteÃ¢ÂÂs loss. LLL was very much looking forward to hearing from Paul from Barcelona to find out what happened.
Ã¢ÂÂStill wondering six hours later how Espanyol didn't win, but there are some days the ball just won't go in. Kalu Uche got a hat-trick Ã¢ÂÂ of sitters missed. Two good saves from the keeper, Coutinho hitting the bar and Verdu missing the follow-up.
"Then again we can't defend set-pieces and two of Zaragoza's three wins this season are against Espanyol. Zaragoza are poor but not the worst I've seen. Ref lost the plot and the linesman near me should visit an opticians. Had loads of puns about Zaragoza's HB pencil shirts. Looked sharp, came for the draw, shaded possession etc but am in a state of shock.
"MOM Coutinho. Looked good and was unlucky not to score.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂ Paul, Barcelona
Looked as cold and miserable at LLL watching from the stands during the sideÃ¢ÂÂs 2-0 defeat to Rayo in Vallecas and its freezing temperatures, freezing wind and freezing pretty much everything. With last weekÃ¢ÂÂs loss to Real Madrid and the defeat in another city derby, the fact that Getafe have done next to nothing in both encounters will be the biggest gripe for Luis GarcÃÂa who was less jovial than normal on Sunday, as to be expected.