La Review: Barça stumble, Madrid fumble, Atlético rumble... and Messi record broken

A bad weekend for the Big Two has allowed Diego Simeone’s plucky blighters to joint-lead the table after another narrow win, writes Tim Stannard

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See. La Liga Loca knew the weekend was going to be a doozy, although the Getafe game ended up being a bit ‘meh’. But there were chocolate-covered grapes to be found everywhere, from a some big shocks up top to a history maker down below...

Piqué starts Spain turf war as sloppy Barça drop points against Deportivo

On Saturday night, Luis Enrique may have been channelling a 1980s stressed-out New York police captain dealing with a miscreant, rule-breaking detective.

“Piqueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!” came the call to his office, for a dressing down that ended with the removal of the defender’s piece and shield, and Pique breaking a coffee cup or two before slamming the office door behind him.

Gerard Pique

A bad weekend for poor Pique

The Spain stopper, no stranger to starting trouble with pretty much anyone in the vicinity, decided to refer to Alvaro Arbeloa as an A-hole in the Camp Nou mixed zone, after the Real Madrid defender had called Piqué a friend but said that his fellow Spaniard would end up at a comedy club one day (after the Barcelona man tweeted his enjoyment over Madrid’s Copa del Rey business. Yep, it’s that childish). Esteban Granero then tweeted that Piqué should respect his superiors. Sergio Ramos said he should be nicer. And so on and on.  

This might have been all fine and dandy, but Piqué was part of a backline that conceded two late goals against Deportivo in a match that should have been wrapped up after the home side took a two-goal lead. The result means Barcelona have dropped four points in the past two league games and have lost the league lead, although the blow was softened a little by Real Madrid’s latest mess-up.

Luis Suarez tries to retain possession during the match against Deportivo

Barça boss Enrique was hinting that this was a danger before the match, knowing Deportivo are tough cookies these days. “Not the best opponent to play before going to Japan [for the Club World Cup],” he warned, before a draw largely blamed in the Spanish press on a Blaugrana side packing their mental suitcases before the deal was sealed.

Barcelona 2-2 Deportivo La Coruna

Atlético Madrid reach football dreamboat high

Ahh. Atlético Madrid. Like a square-jawed mid-westerner with perfect stubble, the part-time job as a fireman and hobby as a distressed puppy rescuer. The published poet who can make the perfect caramel latte. The man who has never set foot inside a gym but can bench press a tree trunk. The club that had to come from behind and pull out a win against the grizzled Athletic Bilbao to move alongside Barcelona at the top of the table. The team that isn’t Real Madrid, basically.

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

Atletico celebrate during their hard-fought victory

Madrid completely mess up in El Madrigal

For the first half of Real Madrid’s clash at Villarreal – and especially the first 10 minutes – it really was a case of knocking on their metaphorical door and asking if anyone was at home. The visitors in El Madrigal were absolutely nowhere to be seen aside from Pepe, who was required to be in five places at the same time.

Although there was a rally in the second half, a bunch of missed chances from Karim Benzema meant that a bunch of missed chances from Villarreal went unpunished in a very famous 1-0 win.

Jese and Mateo Kovacic press for the ball

For once it was fairly easy to be sympathetic with poor Rafa Benítez, who had to witness a big chance to make amends for the Clásico defeat completely missed by some misfiring strikers, and Luka Modric having another midfield dawdle. “I’m not happy with anything about the first half,” fumed the Madrid boss, a sentiment shared by Pepe. “I don’t know why we went out like that,” admitted the defender. With the Copa del Rey now no longer an option, the club can spend a whole week trying to find an answer to that question.

Villarreal 1-0 Real Madrid

Celta steam ahead in Champions League chase

After a wobble a few weeks ago, the good ship Celta has righted itself with two wins and a draw over the past three matches, to hurl an ice hammer into the fourth-placed wall of La Primera. Chances were missed a’plenty against Espanyol in a 1-0 win but the clash was decided by an exquisite chip from Iago Aspas for the Spaniard's seventh goal of the season.

Espanyol, meanwhile, have only won a single match in five to have AS columnist Iván Molero complaining that the team these days seem to “disappear up front, except when something epic is needed”. One man who has now disappeared is their manager Sergio Gonzalez, who was sacked on Monday somewhat pointlessly and unfairly.

Celta Vigo 1-0 Espanyol

Gary learning it’s grim up north in Spain too

El Nevvo said after the 1-1 draw up at Eibar that he wanted to make an immediate impact with the team, but was only satisfied with the final 20 minutes when Valencia made a concerted push to get back into the game after being frustrated by their Basque opponents. It’s a useful reminder to those watching the mighty Primera for the first time, that the league is more than just three teams. Anyone can give anyone a game at any time. Except, perhaps Getafe. Or Levante. Sometimes Betis are flaky. Scrap that.

Eibar 1-1 Valencia

Gary Neville, Valencia

G-Nev hasn't won either of his first two games in charge

New star is born at Granada as Messi record broken

It’s been quite the 2015 for Granada striker Adalberto Peñaranda, to put it rather glibly. In April, the then-17-year-old was shot through the thigh at a party incident in the footballer’s native Venezuela. The lanky line-leader was sold on to Udinese, who then transplanted the footballer into the youth set-up of sister club Granada.

An injury issue – and other strikers being a bit hopeless – meant Peñaranda made his debut just three weeks ago. Now, the footballer’s two goals in a 2-1 win at Levante – gorgeous control for the first – has made the Venezuelan the youngest foreigner in La Liga to score a brace, beating Leo Messi’s previous record by 24 days. “He’s knocked at the door and then knocked it down,” was the praise from Granada boss José Ramón Sandoval.

Levante 1-2 Granada

More drama for baffled Betis coach

Being a Betis fan is still a topsy-turvy experience. Only Merciful Zeus himself could imagine what it’s like for Pepe Mel. The Seville side’s boss is still desperately trying to get his team to win at home and saw them drop two points at Las Palmas with pretty much the last swivel and kick of the game from Willian José. “We couldn’t put three passes together,” Mel lamented on a defeat that lifts Las Palmas from the bottom of the table after defeat for Levante.

Las Palmas 1-0 Real Betis

Rayo end weekend in relegation peril

Relatively unnoticed to the watching world, a home defeat to Málaga – three in a row in La Primera – has meant Rayo have fallen into the relegation zone. And that’s where they might end up staying, warned a very displeased Paco Jémez.

Rayo Vallecano 1-2 Malaga

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