Good Day, Bad Day: MalagaÃ¢ÂÂs big moment, MessiÃ¢ÂÂs magic & LevanteÃ¢ÂÂs longevity
RESULTS Sat 17 Mar Granada 2-1 Sporting GijÃÂ³n; Real Zaragoza 1-1 Osasuna; Getafe 1-0 Real Sociedad; Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona; Rayo Vallecano 3-0 Real Betis Sun 18 Mar Levante 1-0 Villarreal; Mallorca 2-1 AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid; Athletic Club 0-3 Valencia; Real Madrid 1-1 MÃÂ¡laga
It may be a bit late for the Catalan club, but Barcelona appear to have recovered from their away-day ditherings with an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy victory at Sevilla following wins at AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid and Racing Santander. BarÃÂ§aÃ¢ÂÂs second goal was another exceptional effort from Leo Messi, who at the age of 24 years and 270 days becomes the youngest footballer to reach 150 la Liga goals. One to watch, thinks the eagle-eyed, talent-spotting LLL.
A much-needed win for Valencia, Unai Emery and especially Roberto Soldado. The men from Mestalla had only won two of the previous 10 league games, with SpainÃ¢ÂÂs latest striking sensation only scoring one goal in that spell. A hat-trick against Athletic will certainly do all three parties good in their respective hunt for third-place security, respite from hostile supporters and a place in SpainÃ¢ÂÂs Euro 2012 squad.
They just donÃ¢ÂÂt give up, do they? An incredibly late winner from Xavi Torres against Villarreal moves Levante back into fourth spot on 41 points Ã¢ÂÂ and just a couple away from survival, which is the repeated mantra about the clubÃ¢ÂÂs overriding goal this season. A good result in the midweek round of matches could see LevanteÃ¢ÂÂs summer holidays starting very early indeed Ã¢ÂÂ if the club doesnÃ¢ÂÂt fancy the extra effort of European football next season.
The visitors to the Santiago Bernabeu werenÃ¢ÂÂt much of an attacking threat in the second half of Sunday nightÃ¢ÂÂs 1-1 draw with Real Madrid, but that didnÃ¢ÂÂt really matter. Manuel PellegriniÃ¢ÂÂs men hung on in there, watched the home team miss their chances and pounced when given their own opportunity thanks to a majestic free-kick from Santi Cazorla. MÃÂ¡laga had been waiting all season for a Ã¢ÂÂbigÃ¢ÂÂ result in la Liga. TheyÃ¢ÂÂve just got it.
Magnificent stuff once again from Rayo, who bounced back from a 5-1 stuffing against Espanyol last Monday with a 3-0 win over Betis, another side who had come up from la Segunda over the summer. Reaching 37 points gives Rayo hope for survival (already, with 11 matches left) and even Europe; of course, JosÃÂ© RamÃÂ³n Sandoval doesnÃ¢ÂÂt want to hear of such talk, although LLL doesnÃ¢ÂÂt believe a word of it from a very ambitious man. Ã¢ÂÂThe fans can get excited with everything all they want, but we arenÃ¢ÂÂt going crazy about Europe, because if we do and any game is lost, we donÃ¢ÂÂt want to go overboard about defeats,Ã¢ÂÂ claimed the Rayo boss.
Back-to-back victories for Luis GarcÃÂaÃ¢ÂÂs side - the second of those against Real Sociedad on Sunday Ã¢ÂÂ puts Getafe onto 35 points and a quiet, uneventful end to the campaign to match what has been a fairly quiet, uneventful year in the sleepy capital suburb of Getafe.
The Sevilla keeper prevented what could have been a five- or six-goal rout by Barcelona in the SÃÂ¡nchez PizjuÃÂ¡n.
Bobbling along nicely under JoaquÃÂn CaparrÃÂ³s. Not always a team youÃ¢ÂÂd pay good money to watch Ã¢ÂÂ or any kind of money, come to think of it Ã¢ÂÂ but thatÃ¢ÂÂs not the concern of the Mallorca boss, whose job it is to keep the Balearic team in la Primera. And thatÃ¢ÂÂs what heÃ¢ÂÂs doing with Mallorca, in midtable on 33 points after a 2-1 Sunday afternoon win against AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid.
LLL is perhaps going to have to change its mindset, which wonÃ¢ÂÂt be easy at all for the stick-in-the-mud blog. It has always put Granada in the "could still go down quite easily, if it doesnÃ¢ÂÂt watch where it's going" column, but a very competent victory over Sporting on Saturday has given the Andalusians a plump comfortable cushion above the relegation zone: although 18th-placed Racing play tonight, Granada are seven points clear of the relegation zone and only two behind 12th-placed Sevilla. Although, in truth, that latter fact might not say much for MÃÂchelÃ¢ÂÂs men this season.
Look at that! Real Madrid in the Bad Day section. That hasnÃ¢ÂÂt happened since the last time the side lost league points, way back in December against Barcelona. SundayÃ¢ÂÂs result was what can sometimes happen in la Liga: Real Madrid donÃ¢ÂÂt always win.
Indeed, JosÃÂ© Mourinho was correct in saying that Ã¢ÂÂperhaps the question is how we score so much and so often,Ã¢ÂÂ rather than why Madrid didnÃ¢ÂÂt get a second goal against MÃÂ¡laga to kill the game off and maintain a 10-point table-top gap. AS have declared that the title race is back on Ã¢ÂÂ as have the Barcelona-based papers, of course Ã¢ÂÂ but LLL is far from certain.
AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao
From what LLL saw, the Rojiblancos were a tad unlucky in the 2-1 defeat to Mallorca with a own goal and a missed penalty not helping the AtlÃÂ©tico cause. However the result does show, as in AthleticÃ¢ÂÂs 3-0 defeat of Valencia, that the Europa League may well take its toll on both teams in terms of league form, with less cup-tied teams like MÃÂ¡laga taking advantage in the not so fierce fight for fourth.
La Real were little bit unlucky against Getafe in a 1-0 Coliseum defeat thanks to an unavoidable own goal from the defender, with the ball bouncing first off the keeper and then immediately striking the centre-back.
ThatÃ¢ÂÂs really going to hurt the morning after. It was a giant kick to the footballing goolies that has cost the job of JosÃÂ© Molina, a manager only appointed in December. A goalless draw at Levante was already bad enough for Villarreal and Molina with the game going into injury time, but a last-gasp goal conceded really cooked the former goalkeeperÃ¢ÂÂs goose with the side now five games without a win and expecting the visit of Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
Before SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs defeat to Granada, SportingÃ¢ÂÂs SebastiÃÂ¡n Eguren talked about the game being a seven-pointer due to its importance. Expect the Uruguayan to say "thereÃ¢ÂÂs 11 finals left" any moment now.
Rather like Villarreal, Zaragoza suffered massive sporting trauma to the nether regions late on Saturday. The bottom-dwellers led 1-0 against Euro-chasing Osasuna after Helder Postiga's 86th-minute goal, but then the Pamplona posse pulled off their speciality act with a header from a corner two minutes later Ã¢ÂÂ an Ã¢ÂÂinfantileÃ¢ÂÂ mistake, according to Zaragoza coach Manolo JimÃÂ©nez. As much as they will talk of fighting to the very end, Zaragoza still need seven or eight wins from the final 11 league games this season to survive. Unlikely.