Good Day, Bad Day: Proud Pep, imperious Puyol & Ronaldo's big fat zero

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Good Day

Pep Guardiola
Another trip to the Santiago Bernabeu for the Barça boss and yet another triumph for his Dream Boys, with Guardiola yet to be defeated as a manager in the heart of Mordor.
After the game, struggling with a heavy cold, Guardiola praised his players for sticking with their passing principles and staying patient, despite enduring an opening 20 minutes in which little went right for the visitors.
Guardiola made special mention of Víctor Valdés after the game, a goalkeeper who had a howler in the opening seconds with a poorly-aimed pass but still continued to play short balls, despite the obvious knock to his confidence and the testing, slippery conditions.
Barça are still too flakey away from home in smaller games to be completely confident of another league title win this season, but this pegging back of Madrid in the Bernabeu certainly didn’t do their chances any harm.

Carles Puyol
Absolutely magnificent at centre-back and right-back, the two positions the Barcelona defender played in on Saturday night. The man of the match for LLL by some measure.

What a team! What players! What a story! What a win over Sevilla, technically rivals for a Champions League spot this season given Levante are in fourth with a five point gap over their Andalusian opponents.  
The 1-0 victory stemmed from a defensive calamity for Sevilla when, during a goalmouth scramble, Javi Varas couldn’t pick the ball up due to a back pass, something Alvaro Negredo failed to realise, leaving the ball sitting on the goal-line for Nano to welly home.
Levante have surely passed the “need 42 points to survive” mark and must be thinking of the mid-50 region, which could see a top six finish, especially as the likes of Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and Málaga are dreadfully inconsistent this season.
The spirit in the camp of the Valencia side is summed up by midfielder, Iborra, whose new born baby, Alma, died just days before the game. The footballer told his manager he was ready to play on Saturday, and play he did, coming on with nearly half an hour to go before later leaving the pitch in tears at fulltime. “His professionalism came above everything else,” said Levante manager, Juan Ignacio Martínez.

Another tough as old boots performance from Osasuna produces a point at Málaga and keeps Osasuna in seventh.

Ever dependable Atlético Madrid turned up at Cornella on Sunday night and rolled over for their tummies to be tickled by Espanyol in a 4-1 defeat. Paul from Barcelona was there to see what happened...

Well, who saw that coming? The team line-ups revealed that Alvaro had been dropped to the bench and Rui Fonte and Thievy were starting for Espanyol and Atlético’s line-up made you think, “I thought they had more well-known players than that.”
Atlético started brightly, then the roof caved in. A poor clearance from Courtois was won by Romaric (note to Espanyol : stop faffing about and sign him) went to Verdú, who out of nothing, placed a long distance shot into the bottom corner. Four minutes - 1-0.  Two minutes later Verdú ran about 40 metres, beat two defenders and the goalie - 2-0.Then the goal of the match for me, Romaric ran at the “defence” played a one-two and hammered it across the keeper into the far corner - 3-0.
Espanyol were totally dominant but we were expecting Hurricane Atlético in the second half. We got light-breeze Atlético. A mazy run from the hard-working Sergio García bought Espanyol’s fourth.
In the end, a fab performance from an Espanyol team missing four regulars and an awful performance from a team missing a bloke who still has Sevilla curtains in his bedroom. Lovely Atlético fans, the only ones in the league who don’t applaud along with the Jarque tribute, by the way, had left way before the end.
Paul, Barcelona

The 1-0 victory at Zaragoza was the side’s first away win in nine months.

Rubén Castro
Two injury time goals for the Betis striker against Valencia gave his team their first win since dinosaurs walked the earth. “We went out against the third best team in the league without fear, attacking and we were better,” said coach Pepe Mel, whose Betis side have perked up considerably in the past couple of games to put the breaks on a slide towards the bottom of the table.

LLL had the pleasure of attending a truly dreadful match between Getafe and Granada in the Coliseum that should have been a goalless draw had it not been for a Javi Casquero shot taking a deflection of a visiting player and going in for a 1-0 win for the home team. Even the ever cheerful Getafe coach, Luis García, was happy to admit that the game was a bit of a stinker when it was all done and dusted.

Nacho Novo
Two goals in one game. Miraculous stuff from the former Rangers man in Sporting’s 3-1 win over Rayo, though the victory wasn't enough to drag the Asturian side out of the relegation zone thanks to a dreadful start to the season.

Bad Day

Cristiano Ronaldo
It's hard not to feel a tad sorry for the rich, talented, supermodel-bothering billionaire, who is getting such a battering from the Madrid fans and press that you’d thought he’d walked out onto the Santiago Bernabeu pitch for the Clásico and peed on a picture of Alfredo di Stefano. Heck, Marca even gave the footballer zero points from three in the paper’s post match ratings.
Ronaldo’s two huge misses and continued failures against Barcelona - Copa del Rey final aside - have given more ammunition to his knockers, who feel that despite the hundreds of goals whacked in against Osasuna, Ronaldo fails to deliver when it counts. Even some of Ronaldo’s teammates have waded in to defend the forward with Iker Casillas saying that “Cris has given us a lot of goals and titles (one anyway - LLL), it’s not fair to doubt him now.”

José Mourinho
It was praiseworthy of Mourinho to have faith in the attacking aspects of his team, with the Madrid manager choosing to play the formidable front four that had contributed to 15 straight wins, rather than a tough tackling trio in midfield. In doing so, the Madrid manager added to what was a surprisingly entertaining game, compared to recent encounters. But Mourinho will have to go back to the drawing board once again in the challenge of properly bringing down Barcelona. 

Unai Emery
Looked quite, quite forlorn after Valencia’s incredibly late defeat to Betis on Saturday. For a while it looked like a miserable loss to Chelsea was going to be softened a tad by a hard-fought intense 1-0 victory away at Betis. That was certainly the case at 90 minutes before Rubén Castro popped up with a brace. “Victories and defeats come from details” claimed the Valencia boss, using a bit of the vibe that Mourinho was to dip into after his own ‘details’ defeat to Barcelona, a couple of hours later.

A decent win over Getafe on Monday gave the impression that Sevilla had turned a bit of a corner. But Marcelino’s men played like porridge on Saturday in the 1-0 defeat to Levante with the Sevilla coach lamenting his side’s “comedy goal” that was conceded.

A draw at home against Osasuna leaves Málaga in sixth and failing to take advantage of another slip up from Sevilla or gain ground on Levante in fourth. With the continuing disasters that Villarreal and Atlético Madrid are this season, Málaga are missing out on a fine chance to grab a Champions League place.

Athletic Bilbao
Another slip-up at home for Athletic with a late goal conceded against Racing Santander leaves the Basque team with the same number of points as Atlético Madrid. Not a lot of people know that.

Atlético Madrid
Where to start...? With the defence, probably, who were stunningly awful in the four goals scored by Espanyol. Even by Atlético’s terrible standards. The 4-1 loss to the Pericos sees the Rojiblancos without an away win in la Liga this season, with the fans utterly miserable and coach Gregorio Manzano very, very close to the sack.

Rayo Vallecano
Defensive disasters cost Rayo a 3-1 defeat at home in Vallecas to Sporting. Sunday’s loss sees the side with four defeats in row to drop them down towards the relegation zone. Unfortunately there’s no time to move back up the table again before the winter break as Rayo have already played - so to speak - next week’s game - the 4-0 defeat to Barcelona.

Yet another bad day for Villarreal, with a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad in El Madrigal leaving the side out of the relegation zone only on goal difference.

Bottom-of-table and set to stay there for a while after a home defeat to Mallorca. “A dead team with no soul” write Marca on a Zaragoza outfit whose owner and president, Agapito Iglesias, simply couldn’t be more unpopular if he tried. Which is something he’ll probably look to do this week.