La Liga Lessons: Moyes takes step backwards as big guns make things boring
Normally an easily excitable La Liga Loca likes to bill a weekend in La Liga as a complete humdinger; a total rumpus of fun. But, considering all top six teams won this weekend, with only Valencia letting the sides down a little by conceding, there wasn't too much else to speak of, aside from some mixed fortunes in the Basque Country. But don’t let that stop you having a delve into some funny business taking place in Iberia...
Atlético show title-winning traits
And that’s how they won the title last season and got all the way to the Champions League final without breaking into too much of a sweat. Beating teams 2-0 and doing just enough to get by in the game whether it be through a set-piece, penalty or someone’s knee. The win over Granada – a game wedged between an exhausting cup victory over Real Madrid and another match to come against Barça – was pure energy conservation, though a lot was spent, of course, as is Atlético Madrid’s way.
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Granada on Stats Zone
Real Madrid find beatable city rival
“The power of a champion!” boomed Marca as it oozed over Real Madrid’s 3-0 victory against the mighty Getafe in the Coliseum. At last, the league runners-up have found a rival in the city that doesn't give them as much trouble as a certain Atlético Madrid.
LLL must begrudgingly give Cristiano Ronaldo a wee bit of praise for a couple of poacher’s efforts to give him a ridiculous 28 for the season, although only one more than Leo Messi from open play if you take away some Portuguese penalties. Sorry, the blog just couldn’t help itself with the mean stick.
Elsewhere, Karim Benzema awoke from a winter’s hibernation for a lovely assist and Gareth Bale scored his customary second effort when all the hard work in the game has already been done by Ronaldo.
Getafe 0-3 Real Madrid on Stats Zone
Barça move on from Xavi dependency
Of course, Messi was leading the way with all the goalscoring against Deportivo – not the toughest of pursuits this season – but Ivan Rakitic was the fella pulling his Argentine toggle. Metaphorically speaking, as they say.
It looks like Luis Enrique has benefited from an injury to Xavi that forced his hand in promoting the ex-Sevilla playmaker, a voluntary move that has always been troublesome for managers of Barca past and present.
Another point which is largely overlooked – normally by an unobservant and bandwagon-jumping LLL – is that Barcelona’s defence is in good shape at the moment, with just nine goals conceded in 19 games. Indeed, Claudio Bravo in goal has as many clean sheets this season than Sergio Ramos’s bedroom has witnessed since turning 16, the grand total of 10.
Deportivo 0-4 Barcelona on Stats Zone
Valencia: definitely watch this space
You can take Valencia out of a crisis, but you can’t take a crisis out of Valencia. The team may well be on a more stable institutional footing with Peter Lim as the owner, but an awful lot remains the same about this most endearing of clubs.
The mighty men from Mestalla are only ever a blind corner away from disaster. Last week's Copa del Rey exit saw them enter panic mode, with newly-renewed coach Nuno warning that Champions League qualification is a must. “We are focusing on just one objective, no excuses,” said the Portuguese coach.
This means that every game is a going to have a feeling of panic to it, as perfectly encapsulated by the Almería clash where Valencia twice took the lead only to have the opposition equalising within minutes. Fortunately, Alvaro Negredo was on hand towards the end to see Valencia swerve away from another kerfuffle. Just.
Valencia 3-2 Almeria on Stats Zone
Eibar are made from strong stuff
Eibar are continuing to show that they are made from big brass Basque girders. 1-0 down after 10 seconds and down to 10 men, this most sizzling of sides still managed to grind out a 1-1 against Córdoba. Eibar have now only lost three times on their travels in La Liga this season, with two of those games being against Atlético and Barcelona, so not exactly inexcusable.
Cordoba 1-1 Eibar on Stats Zone
Athletic Bilbao. Oh dear...
LLL asked on Friday if Athletic’s season was about to get considerably worse. The answer was undeniably in the positive. Not even Aritz Aduriz playing could save the Basque club’s skins against a hyper-vibrant Villarreal. Athletic have now lost four league games in a row with just the single goal scored to leave the team three points above the relegation zone. “We have not managed our three competitions well,” admitted poor Ernesto Valverde, whose job is still quite safe at least.
Villarreal 2-0 Athletic Bilbao on Stats Zone
Moyes takes a step back at Real Sociedad
Rayo Vallecano are such a random club. It really is impossible to gauge from one match to the next what the Madrid side are going to get up to. No wonder La Real were a little befuddled. That and a complete inability to score goals, with just 19 for the season so far, compared to 36 at the same point last year.
The baffling point for David Moyes is that, aside from the still-scoring Carlos Vela, the Real Sociedad side is stuffed with attacking goodies. It’s just that the Scotsman is still trying to find a way to harness them.
Real Sociedad 0-1 Rayo Vallecano on Stats Zone