La Review: Efficient Atlético, bottling Barça and a rampant Real Madrid
FourFourTwo's man in Madrid Tim Stannard gives the lowdown on the weekend's Primera Liga action - it's Good Day, Bad Day...
Fri 18 Jan Espanyol 3-2 Mallorca Sat 19 Jan Granada 2-0 Rayo Vallecano; Real Sociedad 3-2 Barcelona; Getafe 1-1 Sevilla; MÃÂ¡laga 1-1 Celta de Vigo Sun 20 Jan Osasuna 2-1 Deportivo La CoruÃÂ±a; Real Valladolid 2-0 Real Zaragoza; AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid 2-0 Levante; Valencia 0-5 Real Madrid Mon 21 Jan Real Betis v Athletic Bilbao
Another normal day at the office for the Primera-persistent AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid, who close the gap behind Barcelona to a mere eight points. A solid, no-nonsense 2-0 win over Levante and a tenth match in all competitions without the Rojiblancos conceding a goal at the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n. Far too efficient for a sniffy LLLÃ¢ÂÂs liking.
Unsurprisingly, the Madrid press are very excited indeed on Monday, first off by Barcelona's defeat and the 5-0 thrashing of Valencia that has AS gasping that Ã¢ÂÂthe Madrid of 100 points is back.Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂA meteorite with 11 balls of fire,Ã¢ÂÂ was how an overstimulated and previously underfed TomÃÂ¡s Roncero described the performance of his side, who led 5-0 by the break, the first time Madrid had achieved that in la Liga since 1948.
LLL would call for caution. The win was helped along by some lamentable defending from the visitors Ã¢ÂÂ and all Madrid's forwards playing well, which is all too rare this season. ItÃ¢ÂÂs faaaaaar to early to tell if this will see a renewed charge for the title, or even an attempt to close the 15-point gap on Barcelona.
ThatÃ¢ÂÂs the third year in a row that la Real have stopped Barcelona in la Anoeta, a ground that is turning into a bit of an unhappy spot for BarÃÂ§a. Although GÃÂ©rard Pique was sent off early in the second half, Real Sociedad had done well merely to hang on in there after going 2-0 down within 25 minutes.
But two goals from Chory Castro Ã¢ÂÂ one beautifully placed, one fortuitously deflected Ã¢ÂÂ and an injury-time winner from Imanol Agirretxe added another impressive result to the seasonÃ¢ÂÂs tally, which includes wins at Valencia and MÃÂ¡laga. Ã¢ÂÂThey deserve the Golden Drum,Ã¢ÂÂ enthused manager Philippe Montanier, referencing a local prize handed out in the past three years to a road race, Xabi Alonso and a plodding pop group.
A 2-0 victory over Zaragoza sees Miroslav Djukic and his players ambling away quietly in mid-table. Ã¢ÂÂThe club president came to me before the game to ask if I had picked the footballers he told me to. I told him that he makes things easy for me as I donÃ¢ÂÂt have any others,Ã¢ÂÂ joked the sideÃ¢ÂÂs Serbian coach, who has now amassed 28 points for his side.
Freezing rain and wind were in the air at the Coliseum, but not once did Unai Emery come off the touchline for a break from handing out endless instructions to his new Sevilla charges, who LLL doubts were listening for one single second. ItÃ¢ÂÂs wonderful to have the crouching master back.
The problem with Friday night matches in Spain is that by the time Monday comes around they feel like the games were played way back in the mists of time Ã¢ÂÂ "DidnÃ¢ÂÂt people dress funny back then, footballers with mutton-chop sideboards" far. This week, Espanyol were jammed into that slot but completed a very handy week of football with another home victory against relegation rivals Ã¢ÂÂ this time Mallorca, to add to the previous win over Celta Vigo. The six points have lifted Espanyol into a comfortable 14th.
GranadaÃ¢ÂÂs first home win of the season arrived at the end of September, so fans had to wait a heck of long time Ã¢ÂÂ seven league matches in fact Ã¢ÂÂ before another victory came along, with the Andalusians defeating Rayo Vallecano 2-0. GranadaÃ¢ÂÂs second came from an assist from the newly-arrived Carlos Aranda, now playing for his eighth Primera club.
A proper six-pointer in Pamplona saw Osasuna beating relegation rivals Deportivo. However, the opener from Kike Sola in the 2-1 victory came from a pass with a player in an offside position. So of course, the lucky manager went for the usual strategy in such situations Ã¢ÂÂ claim that the referee was only righting wrongs of the past. Ã¢ÂÂIn 20 matches, itÃ¢ÂÂs the first time theyÃ¢ÂÂve given us something,Ã¢ÂÂ claimed JosÃÂ© Luis Mendilibar.
And so the day finally dawns, the moment when Barcelona find themselves in the Bad Day section of the blog. The general vibe in the Catalan capital is summed up by Sport whose headline read Ã¢ÂÂIt doesnÃ¢ÂÂt matter (the league is won)Ã¢ÂÂ, with Josep MarÃÂa Casanovas soothing that Ã¢ÂÂthereÃ¢ÂÂs nothing to worry about. It had to happen some day.Ã¢ÂÂ
There are several reasons to believe this Ã¢ÂÂ going unbeaten for so long is more unusual than losing a single game of football and BarÃÂ§a's form has been known to take a little dip in January or February before picking up again once the Champions League gets going.
LluÃÂs MascarÃÂ³ has another reason behind SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs reverse and the midweek cup draw against MÃÂ¡laga. Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt want to say that Guardiola and ValdÃÂ©s are to blame for the defeat,Ã¢ÂÂ writes the Sport columnist, blaming Guardiola and ValdÃÂ©s for the defeat, Ã¢ÂÂbut everyone knows that for everything to go well with BarÃÂ§a there has to be absolute tranquility.Ã¢ÂÂ ThursdayÃ¢ÂÂs Copa del Rey second leg against MÃÂ¡laga is already looking a tasty one with the score nicely balanced at 2-2.
An iffy start to 2013 for MÃÂ¡laga, who have now picked up just the single point from nine. That point came in SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs draw against Celta Vigo, who are no great shakes on the road. The drop in performance levels may well be due to the Copa del Rey clashes against Barcelona Ã¢ÂÂ although Manuel Pellegrini is less than happy with the pitch at la Rosaleda, which the Chilean compared to Ã¢ÂÂan ice rink.Ã¢ÂÂ
Oh dear. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs 17 goals conceded now in the last four matches against Real Madrid in Mestalla, so itÃ¢ÂÂs by no means the first time time that fans have left the stadium early in disgust, although storming off at half-time with the home side 5-0 down probably is a rarity. Even for Valencia supporters.
The loss, which forms part two of the Valencia v RM treble, was down to the home team's central midfield mess and an even worse situation down the flanks, which were a Germany-style motorway for Real Madrid. Ã¢ÂÂThey were infinitely superior,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Ernesto Valverde after the match.
The 2-0 defeat at AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid continues a new year lull for Levante, who have lost two from three this month.
The Getafe boss didnÃ¢ÂÂt seem to be enjoying the Sevilla game at all, irrespective of the cold, wind and very swirly drizzle that made already sparse stands empty even further. The suspended GarÃÂ§ia was sat just two seats in front of an excited LLL and there was an awful lot of frustration and arm-waving.
His injury-hit side struggled to create chances and get on top of the visitors, who found home keeper Carlos MoyÃÂ¡ in fine form and pulling off some Barcelona-tempting saves. LLL noticed with some surprise that Getafe have now gone six league games without a victory.
As with MÃÂchel and Sevilla last week, this may be a moment when the coach in question doesnÃ¢ÂÂt make it until the end of Monday in his job. Defeats against Valladolid and Espanyol have weakened CaparrÃÂ³s even further. Ã¢ÂÂI am strong but feeling down now because I like to win but more so for the footballers. Now we have to prepare for the next match,Ã¢ÂÂ hoped Jokin after the 3-2 defeat in Cornella.