Good Day, Bad Day: Comeback kids, sorry Sevilla and Atlético’s new era

Good Day

Gonzalo Higuaín, José Callejón
Both Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo looked a little lost in the hurly burly of the second half of Madrid’s 2-1 win over Mallorca, when pretty much every forward player at José Mourinho’s disposal was out on the field. Heck, even Kaká played, things were so desperate at 1-0 down.
However, Higuaín celebrated five years with the club with yet another crucial comeback goal, while Callejón continued in what has become a sparkling campaign for both the player and his flat top, with his third league goal of the season making him the most effective player in la Liga with a strike rate of one goal every 75 minutes in all competitions.

Alexis Sánchez
Rather like Angel di María, Alexis is never going to be a favourite for the blog due to the footballer’s outrageously theatrical ways and unnervingly tiny face, but the bustling Barça player has qualities that LLL loves, in his strength, drive and finishing. Alexis popped up with an assist and a goal on Sunday against in Betis, in a game when Pep’s Dream Boys had a bit of a scare having gone 2-0 up in the first half to then blow the lead. Fancy that, Barça falling asleep in the middle of match.

Athletic Bilbao
Marcelo Bielsa’s side were hugely disappointing last week against Getafe, but showed signs of the old, proper Athletic on Sunday in a 3-0 win over Levante with all three goals being headers, the call sign of the Basque battlers who now move into fifth-place.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy
The goal from the Dutch striker against Sporting was just his second of the season in la Liga for Málaga.

Atlético Madrid
A 3-0 win over Villarreal sounds fantastic - especially compared to recent results - but it isn’t yet “another chapter” as claimed by AS, who are most enthusiastic in their response to Diego Simeone’s home debut on the Rojiblanco bench. It’s an attitude shared by Marca who boast of “another Atleti”.
While the former player was more active on the sidelines than Gregorio Manzano - responding to the chants of fans, hi-fiving his players, applauding Diego off the pitch - Atlético weren’t enormously better than in previous games in the Vicente Calderón this season. They were however a little luckier, and were also playing awful opposition.
The line-up was not that different, nor the tactics. Falcaoo’s first goal came from a move that was offside and the second from a penalty that was a foul committed outside the box. LLL is not saying there are not signs for temporary optimism for the Rojiblancos, but the “new Atlético”, “Europe, here we come” declarations within a couple of games of a new regime have been made to look silly before. Instead, the message from LLL is patience, young Padawan, patience.

Diego Simeone
Before the appearance of the new Atlético Madrid manager before the press post Villarreal, LLL was joshing whether a pertinent question for the Argentinean would be, “are you ready to apologise to David Beckham?”
Didn’t feel quite so brave when Simeone walked out, though. Looked like the Atlético Madrid boss could remove your head with a pair of tweezers without breaking into a sweat.

The Seville side are very much a confidence team that tends to win and lose in runs. At the moment, Betis tails are up after three straight wins and that form carried on into the Camp Nou with the visitors coming from 2-0 down to get back to 2-2 but eventually lose out 4-2.
Pepe Mel was still unhappy with the outcome though, when asked about the secret of facing down the Catalan club. “I don’t have the formula for beating Barça as they knocked four past us.” Despite the scoreline at the Camp Nou, Sevilla - the next opponents for Betis - should be feeling very concerned indeed about next weekend’s derby.

LLL is enjoying watching the Rayo striker enormously this season. Tall, physical with good Michael Bolton hair, Michu popped up with his eighth league of the season to help Rayo to a 2-1 win over Granada. The forward won’t be in Vallecas for much longer.

Real Sociedad
It was with a gasp of surprise that LLL noticed that la Real were in 14th now, having gone six games unbeaten. Saturday’s smash and grab by Antoine Griezmann was a jammy effort involving a hand-ball and deflection, but the Basque outfit did enough to deserve something from the game.

Racing Santander
A remarkable run for the managerial trio at Racing continues an unbeaten streak ever since the sacking of Héctor Cúper. Racing’s latest triumph was a 2-0 win - assisted by two penalties - over Osasuna to lift the Cantabrians into 15th, two points clear of the drop zone.

Joaquín Caparrós
A iffy offside decision, a 1-0 lead lost and a superb Mallorca performance that had no reward in the end was too much for Caparrós to bear with a sending off in the final seconds of the game, with the Andalusian’s notorious temper getting too much for him and the man-in-the-middle.
Mallorca’s fight and fire in the first forty-five minutes saw José Mourinho praising the opposition with the claim that “the team responsible for what we couldn’t do in the first half was Mallorca,” a useful reminder that when the big two do badly it isn’t always down to their own deficiencies but impressive opposition. 

A win so dramatic that at least one member of the Sporting side appeared to be in tears. A late Ruud van Nistelrooy equalising effort looked like producing a 1-1 draw in Gijón, until a whopper of an effort from Oscar Trejo in injury time gave Sporting a hugely important win.

Bad Day

The Mestalla men are only just back from a long, relaxing winter break, but Unai Emery was blaming fatigue from a Copa del Rey double against Sevilla for a 1-0 home defeat to Real Sociedad, a second league match in 2012 without a win. However, Saturday’s opposition had just been smashed 6-1 by Mallorca in the cup but didn’t seem to be suffering any adverse consequences.
Valencia’s normal front two of Roberto Soldado and Jonas were absent from the starting line-up due to suspension and rotation, but their replacements of Ariz Aduriz and Dani Parejo in support simply didn’t deliver.

A first defeat at home for Osasuna, this season, to Racing Santander of all teams.

Watching a whole host of Sevilla players blast the ball over and wide of the goal again and again, left LLL feeling a little sorry for manager, Marcelino. The forward line fielded against Espanyol was fairly attacking for the normally defence-minded coach with Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, Manu del Moral and José Antonio Reyes all in action.
But every one of those footballers were guilty of misses, especially in the first forty-five minutes, a run that contributed to a goalless draw in a less than impressed Sánchez Pizjuán. “After the first half we played, it’s not normal for it to end 0-0. But that’s football,” sighed Marcelino who is under increasing pressure after a run of four league matches without a win.

Fabri was furious on Saturday and as well the Granada manager might be after a 2-1 home defeat to Rayo. Fabri was angry at the ref - as all coaches are these days, except Pep Guardiola, and especially his players. “Matches are begun to be lost during the week, ” fumed the Granada boss, “every minute of training has a reason, not just for filling in a report and getting paid at the end of the month.”

Sporting boss, Manuel Preciado, summed up Málaga’s situation the best when noting that although they were better that Sporting on paper, his own team had more spirit, fight and effort. Five league matches without a win and a cup knock-out to Real Madrid sees the Málaga project in some trouble at the moment.

José Molina now has to decide which Villarreal is the real team that he’s stuck in charge of. The side that went 2-0 up against Valencia last weekend or the one that was utterly hopeless in the 3-0 defeat to Atlético Madrid. The incredibly-gloomy looking boss who has the air of Miguel Angel Lotina in terms of misery was ruthless in his appraisal of his players after the defeat.

15,000 fans demonstrating outside the ground and yet another chance for all three points missed at home for bottom-of-the-table Zaragoza who could only draw 1-1 with Getafe.