La Review: Efficient Atlético, bottling Barça and a rampant Real Madrid

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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; Málaga 1-1 Celta de Vigo Sun 20 Jan Osasuna 2-1 Deportivo La Coruña; Real Valladolid 2-0 Real Zaragoza; Atlético Madrid 2-0 Levante; Valencia 0-5 Real Madrid Mon 21 Jan Real Betis v Athletic Bilbao


Atlético Madrid
Another normal day at the office for the Primera-persistent Atlético 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 Calderón. Far too efficient for a sniffy LLL’s liking.

Real Madrid
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 “the Madrid of 100 points is back.” “A meteorite with 11 balls of fire,” was how an overstimulated and previously underfed Tomás 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 – and all Madrid's forwards playing well, which is all too rare this season. It’s 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.

Real Sociedad
That’s 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 Barça. Although Gérard 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 – one beautifully placed, one fortuitously deflected – and an injury-time winner from Imanol Agirretxe added another impressive result to the season’s tally, which includes wins at Valencia and Málaga. “They deserve the Golden Drum,” 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. “The 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 don’t have any others,” joked the side’s Serbian coach, who has now amassed 28 points for his side.

Unai Emery
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. It’s 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 – "Didn’t 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 – this time Mallorca, to add to the previous win over Celta Vigo. The six points have lifted Espanyol into a comfortable 14th.

Carlos Aranda
Granada’s first home win of the season arrived at the end of September, so fans had to wait a heck of long time – seven league matches in fact – before another victory came along, with the Andalusians defeating Rayo Vallecano 2-0. Granada’s 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 – claim that the referee was only righting wrongs of the past. “In 20 matches, it’s the first time they’ve given us something,” claimed José 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 “It doesn’t matter (the league is won)”, with Josep María Casanovas soothing that “there’s nothing to worry about. It had to happen some day.”

There are several reasons to believe this – going unbeaten for so long is more unusual than losing a single game of football and Barça's form has been known to take a little dip in January or February before picking up again once the Champions League gets going.

Lluís Mascaró has another reason behind Saturday’s reverse and the midweek cup draw against Málaga. “I don’t want to say that Guardiola and Valdés are to blame for the defeat,” writes the Sport columnist, blaming Guardiola and Valdés for the defeat, “but everyone knows that for everything to go well with Barça there has to be absolute tranquility.” Thursday’s Copa del Rey second leg against Málaga is already looking a tasty one with the score nicely balanced at 2-2.

An iffy start to 2013 for Málaga, who have now picked up just the single point from nine. That point came in Saturday’s 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 – although Manuel Pellegrini is less than happy with the pitch at la Rosaleda, which the Chilean compared to “an ice rink.”

Oh dear. That’s 17 goals conceded now in the last four matches against Real Madrid in Mestalla, so it’s 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. “They were infinitely superior,” admitted Ernesto Valverde after the match.

The 2-0 defeat at Atlético Madrid continues a new year lull for Levante, who have lost two from three this month.

Luis García
The Getafe boss didn’t 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 Garçia 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 Moyá 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.

Joaquín Caparrós
As with Míchel and Sevilla last week, this may be a moment when the coach in question doesn’t make it until the end of Monday in his job. Defeats against Valladolid and Espanyol have weakened Caparrós even further. “I 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,” hoped Jokin after the 3-2 defeat in Cornella.