La Review: Barça get job done against hack-happy Atleti, as Real Madrid feast on Espanyol

Tim Stannard enjoyed the weekend so much because…

Well, that was a lot of fun. The weekend in La Liga began with an absolute corker between Barcelona and Atlético Madrid that was as fruity and fantastic as could be expected, and should end with an intriguing affair between Deportivo and Rayo Vallecano on Monday night.

In between, Villarreal continued to make fourth place their own, the relegation battle became a bit of an enigma, and Real Madrid did what was completely predictable against the Pericos of Espanyol...

Barça and Atlético deliver the goods in La Liga classic

‘Too much courage for such a big heart,’ was the verdict from an understanding Marca

Satisfying. Very satisfying indeed. In the first half, both Barcelona and Atlético Madrid played some truly tip-top football while showing off some season-long tendencies.

Unfortunately, one of those for Barcelona was not so much coming slowly out of the blocks but be like Usain Bolt doing up his shoelaces while the opposition was flying down the track. Atlético Madrid grabbed an early winner and spent a lot of the first half being very much up in Barcelona’s grill.

But then Barça showed the bright side of their force with another two cracking goals, and Atlético Madrid put in some insane tackles which got Filipe Luis and Diego Godin rightfully sent off. “Too much courage for such a big heart,” was the verdict from an understanding Marca that praised the team on Sunday’s front cover for having given everything.

And everything was indeed given in a game that could easily have been 2-2 despite the visitors being down to nine men, although Luis Enrique was none too pleased with the ‘intensity’ of the tackle on Messi. “I scared myself,” joked the Barcelona boss on his flipping-out moment on the Camp Nou touchline.

Barcelona are still too flakey in matches against the middling sides of La Liga to say that the title battle is over, but a hugely taxing win against Atlético certainly doesn’t do any harm.

Real Madrid do exactly what it says on the tin

It was bleeding obvious that Real Madrid were going to do their normal thang and steamroll some hapless, not-really-trying opposition at the Bernabéu

As anyone who has had enjoyed the dubious company of LLL for more than a few seconds will testify, it’s quite easy to surmise that the blog is not the smartest sandwich in the chimney. Let’s just say that what LLL is to intelligence, Maniche is to lettuce-based, gluten-free tacos.

However, it was still bleeding obvious that Real Madrid were going to do their normal thang and steamroll some hapless, not-really-trying opposition at the Bernabéu, undoing the good work of highlighting the occasional competitiveness of La Liga by Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. Indeed, the blog slightly underestimated the trouncing that was set to be dealt out by predicting a 5-1 win rather than the 6-0 hammering which actually transpired.

Still, Cristiano Ronaldo was pleased as punch after the game after downing more cannon fodder to inflate his goalscoring figures and set up a week of preening about perfection. That is, before another reality bites moment against an improving Granada side next weekend. That came off a little more catty than LLL intended.

Mestalla loses marbles over another lame game

Another flop in La Liga was summed up by Valencia journalist @pacopolit, with his declaration of ‘Effing disgrace. Shame, gentlemen. SHAME ON THEM’

Once again, Valencia seemed so… flat. Not awful as such, just flat, despite Gary Neville’s typically chirpy declaration after the match that it was one of the best performances for his team that he has seen, but also one of the worst results.

And that’s why the Mestalla side were beaten 1-0 at home by a struggling Sporting side to make it 11 matches in a row in La Liga without a win, with Neville being at the helm for eight of those.

A notoriously prickly Mestalla crowd is in the worst of moods at the best of times, so another flop in La Liga was summed up by Valencia journalist @pacopolit, with his declaration of “Effing disgrace. Shame, gentlemen. SHAME ON THEM.”

A couple of hundred fans waiting outside the players’ exit agreed with a few sharp comments towards the misfiring Mestalla men. But the former Manchester United hero is set to stay in charge for the near future, which starts on Wednesday with a trip to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona in the Copa del Rey. The fact that he branded a question about his future as “ridiculous” was a fair indication of his confidence that matters will turn around soon.

Yellow Submarine continue just below surface journey

It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the top four stayed exactly the same at the end of the season with just a shuffle between second and third

Villarreal continued to make fourth place their own with a typically Villarreal performance and result. No great daisies were pulled up in the process but a narrow 1-0 victory against visiting Granada (and a penalty) were enough to make it nine matches in La Primera for the Yellow Submarine without a loss, although the win in the Madrigal was the first in three.

Marcelino’s side now have an eight-point cushion over a Sevilla side that defeated Levante 3-1 to make it three wins from four in La Liga, and 10 on sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao who squeaked a narrow 1-0 victory against Getafe with after another goal from man-of-the-hour Iñaki Williams. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the top four stayed exactly the same at the end of the season with just a shuffle between second and third.

Eibar start worrying slow-down

LLL is probably being overly fretting and clucky, but it’s a little concerned that Eibar might repeat last season’s campaign with a highfalutin first half of the season, followed by a dribble in the second. After all, the second defeat in a row – a home loss to a sturdy Málaga – came after a more-than-improbable four victories on the trot.

But the blog would be happier if the battling Basque outfit would quickly knock out the three wins or so needed to secure its top-flight status before spending the rest of the season doing whatever it darn well pleases. Considering Eibar’s next two home matches are against Levante and Las Palmas, that might well be possible.

Relegation battle becoming too close to call

All of this is very bad news indeed for Betis, a team that is institutionally very wobbly indeed, still on an interim coach and without a win in nine

Speaking of which, both teams are playing their own parts in a truly intriguing relegation battle, if that kind of business floats your boat. As it stands, Levante are rock bottom on 17 points after a 3-1 loss to Sevilla, but that isn’t a horrible tally of points to have with just under half of the season left. Indeed, the arrival of Fiorentina striker Giuseppe Rossi could well be the boost needed to help Levante stay up, with the Italian-American having already got himself on the scoresheet.

Second-from-bottom Rayo Vallecano are in action on Monday night and more than capable of devastating performances to get out of trouble. The other side in the relegation zone, Granada, are still vulnerable but have improved immeasurably over the past few weeks, as have Sporting, a side that has beaten Real Sociedad and Valencia back to back.

Although results may suggest otherwise, Las Palmas have fire in their belly after a very late win against Celta Vigo on Sunday.

All of this is very bad news indeed for Betis, a team that is institutionally very wobbly indeed, still on an interim coach and without a win in nine. The superb performance from a week ago against Real Madrid was nowhere to be seen in a 2-1 loss to Real Sociedad that leaves the Seville side on the fringes of the relegation battle.

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