Good Day, Bad Day: Flying Fabregas, Magic Martins and Brilliant Barça
RESULTS Sat 27 Oct Espanyol 0-0 Malaga, Real Betis 1-0 Valencia, Celta Vigo 1-1 Deportivo, Rao Vallecano 0-5 Barcelona Sun 28 Oct Real Zaragoza 2-1 Sevilla, Levante 3-1 Granda, Athletic Club 1-2 Getafe, Atletico Madrid 3-1 Osasuna, Mallorca 0-5 Real Madrid
The 25-year-old began the campaign as a bit of whiner about not being able to find his true path at the Camp Nou since leaving Arsenal, but has since started all nine of BarcelonaÃ¢ÂÂs Liga matches this season, producing seven assists along the way. Against Rayo Vallecano, the former Gunner man was a pure box-to-box force; protecting BarÃÂ§a's back four, while robbing the ball in midfield and probing up front. All of this meant that Cesc was able to lead his team to a 5-0 win and keep warm for good measure, something a disastrously-dressed La Liga Loca didn't manage to do while sitting in the stands for the 10pm kick-off at possibly the most exposed point in Madrid.
If LLL was going to take a well-deserved nap through any game this weekend, this encounter was a good choice. In the end not an enormous amount happened at all; a goalless draw in Cornella and 30 minutes of dreamy sleep for the blog. Nevertheless, both teams can take something from the result. For Espanyol it was simply not losing the game and achieving a first clean sheet of the season. "We are getting our self-confidence back," said manager Mauricio Pochettino.
MÃÂ¡laga were able to rest golden-oldies Javier Saviola and JoaquÃÂn from the starting line-up and picked up a handy away point. That ensured Manuel Pellegrini's side maintained a single defeat in 14 Liga and Champions League matches, the only blot on the copy book being a very late loss to AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid. "A fair result in a tight game," declared the Chilean.
A spectacularly bad prediction from LLL saw the blog forecasting two dropped points for the league champions against Mallorca, a side that have proved thorny under JoaquÃÂn CaparrÃÂ³s. But Cristiano Ronaldo proved this column wrong in some style with a brace to become the seventh-highest goalscorer for Real Madrid with 123 goals in 110 games. The Portuguese is now equal with the half-decent Emilio ButragueÃÂ±o, who knocked in 123 in 341 matches.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs perhaps the best-ever name for a footballer who happens to play for the rivals of his name. BetisÃ¢ÂÂ Sevilla made the difference in an edgy 1-0 win over Valencia that owed itself a little to Roberto Soldado enjoying the 'miss' side of his hit-and-miss tendencies and some solid saves from third-choice keeper, AdriÃÂ¡n. Betis keep up their fine start to the season with manager, Pepe Mel, boasting that "even Madrid and Barcelona will have suffer to win here in VillamarÃÂn.Ã¢ÂÂ With all deserved respect, though, LLL would beg to differ with Betis having shipped six goals against Rayo Vallecano and AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid in their Seville home.
As Osasuna manager JosÃÂ© Luis Mendilibar noted, AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid are doing so well this season as they are able to take on the form of a "small team" and grind out results against the likes of his own side even when not playing especially brilliantly. This crazy campaign carries on with AtlÃÂ©tico still side-by-side with Barcelona at the top of the table after a 3-1 win against La Liga's bottom-of-the-table team.
Another remarkable goalscoring display from the Nigerian who scored a brace to give Levante a 3-1 win over Granada. It was the team's third victory on the trot to leave them in the Europa League spots. Wonderful stuff.
The Getafe player not only scored his side's winner at Athletic in San MamÃÂ©s but also became the club's first striker to find the back of the net this season.
The Real Zaragoza striker has four league goals in four games this season. Zaragoza have won all four of them too, the latest being SundayÃ¢ÂÂs 2-1 win over Sevilla. Four-some.
Juan Carlos Valeron
A lovely bit of fleet-footedness from the old-timer after assisting Juan DomÃÂnguez for Deportivo's equaliser in a sprightly Galician derby to end a run of four straight defeats. But the team still haven't won since the first game of the campaign, so affairs in La CoruÃÂ±a are still pretty bad.
Still snugglier than a fabric-softener-soaked teddy bear on their travels. The lame 2-1 defeat to Zaragoza on Sunday sees the Andalusians with just the one away victory in five - and that came at Deportivo, so hardly stunning. Michel's men have now lost three from four leaving the jury out on whether the lively displays against Real Madrid and Barcelona were one-offs or signs of greater things to come. It looks like the latter at the moment, but donÃ¢ÂÂt worry because the Sevilla manager can offer an explanation for the recent poor run of form. Football is being "too hard" on his players, he says. Oh, he canÃ¢ÂÂt.
After a teeny, tiny revival which saw victories against Athletic Bilbao and BATE, Valencia are back to a sorry start with a defeat to Betis which sees the men from the Mestalla with just the single point from 15 on their travels - in the opening match at the Bernabeu. "The issue wasn't a physical one for the team," revealed Mauricio Pellegrino, refusing to blame the midweek Belarus trip, "but more to do with attitude."
The 5-0 thrashing by Real Madrid, who didn't really need to move into third gear, saw a fourth consecutive defeat for the Ballearic side who lacked anything resembling intensity. "We are not this team," admitted JoaquÃÂn CaparrÃÂ³s, "football is about the collective and we weren't a team."
This sounds a bit odd, but it's rare to see a huge disparity between a great team and a distinctly average one in a top-flight match these days. Of course thrashings take place but these can sometimes be explained by flukey levels of efficiency, poor tactics from the losing side or simply a bad day at the office, as suffered by Mallorca against Real Madrid. But although Rayo genuinely did what they could in the game and gave it all their all against BarÃÂ§a, they lost due to the simple matter that Barcelona are about a hundred times better, as they should be with a budget about a hundred times bigger. At least the 5-0 defeat wasn't as bad as the seven-goal loss last time around.
The players seemed snarky and bad tempered, every Getafe ball into the box caused chaos and consternation - even throw-ins spread panic - and the fans seem completely fed up. Still, Marcelo Bielsa's wonderful way of words seems to be the only thing functioning properly at San MamÃÂ©s at the moment. "Our rival's attack was not sufficiently difficult to concede these goals," noted the Athletic boss. "We are in a difficult position but it doesn't correspond with the resources in human capital and institutional size that the club has." LLL could listen to El Loco all day long. The trouble is that the opportunities to do so may be running out.