FourFourTwo.com's Spanish expert Tim Stannard rounds up the best and worst of the weekend's La Liga action...
The midday kick-off against Getafe certainly seemed to suit the midfielder, who was both nonchalant and brilliant in his midfield string-pulling, and looked a heck of lot less pale away from glaring floodlights. The easy-peasy 6-1 victory saw six different Barcelona players score. Even David Villa and Alexis SÃÂ¡nchez managed to find the back of the net, it was that simple.
The Portuguese bagged his second hat-trick in successive home games - with his treble against Sevilla following the one nabbed against Getafe. WhatÃ¢ÂÂs more, Cristiano got to put his feet up for 30 minutes, after being substituted with the job against the visitors done and dusted early doors. Things went so smoothly that the returning Pepe even got to trot about in midfield without an international incident breaking out.
Not a bad few weeks at all for the MÃÂ¡laga star. An improved contract (and buy-out clause) a call-up for Spain, as well as four goals in three league games for his club side. A brace against Levante on Sunday (one from the spot after an outrageous flop from Julio Baptista) gave MÃÂ¡laga just their second league win since the start of the new year and holds off the challenge for fourth from Valencia just that little bit longer.
The Valencia striker has come under a fair bit of criticism lately for not offering much to the cause, but the Paraguayan has shoved cash into his account (literally and metaphorically) with an injury time winner against Celta, five minutes after coming onto the pitch. Valencia edging ever closer to the Champions League places with their 1-0 victory.
Just a couple of months ago, the Rayo forward was Arizmendi-like in his performances, which saw mis-hit passes, aimless shots and crosses finding the stands rather than teammates. But of late, the Guinean has been quite outstanding and continued a sparkling run of form with a goal and an assist in the 2-1 victory against AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid that puts Rayo two points from the Champions League places and just five from the 42-point barrier.
A troubling week concerning the past of La Real played no part in preventing the team of the present continuing their outstanding form with a 2-1 win at Zaragoza that leaves the side unbeaten in five. The match was Ã¢ÂÂeasier than expectedÃ¢ÂÂ, admitted manager Philippe Montanier.
The Mexican manager took over an Espanyol side the bottom-of-the table. A 4-0 away win at Athletic Bilbao now sees the side eight points clear of danger. In what looks like being a win-win situation, the still popular Mauricio Pochettino also seems to be doing rather well at his new club.
It was all very well for Granada to beat Real Madrid, as they managed last week. The big test was if the southerners could win away at Deportivo for three points that are equally as useful. The exam was passed with flying colours after a comfy 3-0 victory for GranadaÃ¢ÂÂs third win from four, and second for the new boss.
This not-winning-away-from-home issue, is becoming a bit of a problem for AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid, with a 2-1 loss at Rayo Vallecano seeing the club without a victory on their travels in eight matches in all competitions.
Levante's worrying spell of bad form continued with a 2-1 home defeat to MÃÂ¡laga. It's now four defeats from five for the Valencia side.
Just the ten goals conceded in two league games against Barcelona this season. Ã¢ÂÂThereÃ¢ÂÂs nothing to be said about this game,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Luis GarcÃÂa. Ã¢ÂÂForget it and move on to the next.Ã¢ÂÂ
The 46 goals shipped by Athletic - the second worst record in the division - suggest that the Basque keeper isnÃ¢ÂÂt having his best ever campaign. The footballer was already under pressure from the fans before a dithering performance in the 4-0 home defeat to Espanyol made matters even worse for poor Gorka. Ã¢ÂÂThe San MamÃÂ©s clearly showed on other occasions little tolerance for our goalkeeper,Ã¢ÂÂ noted Marcelo Bielsa in his own special way.
LLL still has a sneaky feeling, Zaragoza might go down. The side certainly will if their home form doesnÃ¢ÂÂt improve sharpish. The 2-1 loss to Real Sociedad was the teamÃ¢ÂÂs seventh defeat in la Romareda this season, the worst in the division.
The youth-team fullback was making his debut for Real Zaragoza in the clash against Real Sociedad. Unfortunately, it was a performance that lasted just 22 minutes after two bookings were picked up. Ã¢ÂÂOn one hand, IÃ¢ÂÂm happy about my debut but on the other IÃ¢ÂÂm also really down,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted the defender after the clash.
Mallorca & Osasuna
Although neither team lost in a 1-1 draw that can be politely described as dogged, it was a poor result for Mallorca who still only have one win in 18 league games, and could have done with beating a relegation rival at home. And it sucked more than a little for Osasuna, who were winning until injury time until a huge whack upfield from Dudu Aouate wasnÃ¢ÂÂt dealt with, which in turn allow Pedro Geromel to pounce. Ã¢ÂÂThis indecision cost us dearly,Ã¢ÂÂ grumbled Osasuna coach, JosÃÂ© Luis Mendilibar, who probably would have advised his defence of this in less polite terms after the match.
Ouch. The 1-0 defeat to Valencia arrived in the final, final, final, seconds of injury time with a header from Nelson Valdez. And it produced the same reaction from LLL as when the blog sees a Youtube video of a skateboarder crushing his doonickles on a metal stair railing. But without the evil chuckle. Ã¢ÂÂAt first the damage seems irreparable, then during the week you work on fixing it,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted a truly gutted Celta boss, Paco Herrera.
An outrageously bad seven days for Deportivo. A lame defeat at Getafe last weekend, protests at the training ground from fans, grumpy letters from supporters groups and now a terrible 3-0 home defeat to Granada with just the single shot on target. There was protests against the current regime in and outside the stadium - the latter needing the police intervention - and Deportivo boss, Domingos Paciencia, offered his resignation at the post match press conference.
Ã¢ÂÂIf saving Deportivo needs my departure, IÃ¢ÂÂm at the clubÃ¢ÂÂs disposition,Ã¢ÂÂ advised the Portuguese coach who took over during la LigaÃ¢ÂÂs winter break but has picked up just the single victory from six. That offer was snapped up early on Monday morning with the firing of poor old Paciencia after just six weeks in charge.
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