It takes something blindingly obvious for La Liga Loca to get a prediction right. And that's happened at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday, when one immoveable object met another with the result being not much happening. That was the tale of Atlético Madrid and Villarreal, a game that ended in a goalless draw to leave Barça setting a pace at the top of the table that no one else can live with. “Every game takes something out of all of us. Except for Barcelona,” was the admission from Diego Simeone, as the league champions took a huge step towards retaining the league title.
Barça show mastery of ‘just enough’ exertions
There’s one main reason why Barcelona are going to win the league title this year and not Real Madrid. Actually, scratch that, there are three. Barça currently have nine more points than Madrid, and are generally better at putting the ball in the back of the net.
But the third reason is that the Catalan club are superior in managing those nitty-gritty away matches against the middling to lower-end teams so much better, as opposed to a Madrid side that is like the befuddled shopper that enters a jam-packed supermarket without a list. “It would be unfair to say that Barça had a bad match. They played the game they had to,” noted Sport's Josep Maria Casanovas on the win in the Canary Islands.
That’s not to say that Barcelona have been convincing, with some of the victories this season being very squeaky indeed.
Each of the home sides in the past four encounters against Las Palmas, Sporting, Levante and Malaga have refused to lay down their trowels, but 12 points have been picked up. Madrid have only mustered the single victory in their last five away trips - and that was a very jammy win at Granada.
Saturday’s performance was very much marked by Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Arsenal, which was quite understandable, considering the team has a cushion in La Liga that even Chris Christie could fit on. With that cushion having increased in size even further, Barça are now in the very enviable position of being able to put a hen-house full of eggs into the Champions League basket, while easing through La Liga until the end of the season in second gear.
Zizou’s potting shed crushed by Malaga
It’s not so much a case of the honeymoon being over for Zizou, but the Frenchman's luggage being lost and returning home to find a tree atop his potting shed. The high from the win in Rome was quickly quashed.
As mentioned about two inches or so up the page, Real Madrid can smash all-comers to smithereens at the Santiago Bernabeu, but if the club fails to deliver away from home then the gap with Barcelona will increase even further, and even Atlético Madrid may pull away if matters don’t go well in next week’s derby.
Marca’s website was admitting that the league title was all but over seconds after the final whistle went in Andalusia. Madrid fans might even want to be grateful for the point, as Keylor Navas blocked a series of shots, while Cristiano Ronaldo's opener was offside. It’s likely that Madrid will now be switching into ‘Chelsea-mode’ despite Zinedine Zidane insisting that the title chase is not over until it’s over.
English press exodus as Neville revives Valencia
There is a going to be a bit of a drop in the number of low-cost airline trips for journalists from England to wherever Valencia may be from now on, with Gary Neville having led his team to a third win in row to allow everyone in Mestalla to let out a deep breath and banish talk of Rafa Benítez returning to the fold.
Sunday’s victory was a gritty 2-1 affair at Granada that not only stabilises the ship a little more on the rough waters of La Liga, but also gives the club a glimmer of hope for a run at the top six, currently seven points away. “The mood of the team has changed,” noted the English manager, who still looks far from allowing a moment of celebration to come into his plans for the week.
Real Sociedad recovering from Moyes misfire
It really does show how disappointing Real Sociedad’s season was for a good five months, that the Basque outfit has now won four games in a row but is still five points from the top six.
The latest win could not have been sweeter for La Real, who defeated Athletic Bilbao in San Mamés, a team already perhaps suffering the effects of a renewed run in the Europa League.
The San Sebastian side have always had talent in the team and been underperforming badly, but a return to form of Carlos Vela, and especially Jonathan, has started to move La Real rapidly up the table, with the Brazilian scoring the winner to make it six league goals in 2016 for the former Elche man.
Getafe boss fires warning shot to failing players
The slightly scary rant of the week comes from the Metropolis of Getafe, after Friday night’s loss to Levante in Valencia saw the Madrid minnows crash to a fifth La Primera loss in succession.
In the pre-weekend warm-up session for La Liga, the visitors managed to make the team who were sitting bottom of the table look like globe-trotting world-beaters in a 3-0 defeat.
“I feel ashamed,” fumed Getafe boss Fran Escriba, “only those footballers who give everything for the shirt will play again, those who don’t...won’t.” Chilling stuff indeed from the Coliseum King.
The Levante camp was considerably chirpier even before knowing that fellow relegation rivals Granada, Las Palmas, Rayo Vallecano and Sporting Gijon would drop points to give the east coast club a spring in its step.
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