It was a rainy, sofa-dwelling Netflix binge of a weekend in La Liga – fairly routine, entertaining in parts but not something that would warrant more than a remark at the coffee machine on Monday. “Anyone seen Jessica Jones all the way through yet? No? Oh. Is the 10 o’clock get-together still on?”
Real Madrid and Barcelona both snuck wins away from home but struggled to do so in the process. Atlético Madrid toiled in the Vicente Calderón against Eibar but got back to winning ways, while Villarreal remained unbeaten in fourth but showed they probably don’t have enough to go much higher.
However, there’s some drama to be had on Monday night when an Espanyol side under new Chinese management try to arrest a slide into the relegation zone with a home clash against Real Sociedad. Which probably isn’t part of the five-year plan.
Gary Neville’s internship turns into a boot camp
Smarty-pants comments from LLL about the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time will be left at the front door today, as the situation at Valencia probably isn’t too pleasant at all for Gary Neville.
Clearly the Englishman is trying to deliver the goods to passionate but endlessly prickly fans. And clearly the Englishman is perplexed as to why the players are not giving 110% – which they are – and getting the results that Neville feels the team deserve. Images of the departure from Seville and subsequent arrival in Valencia after the 1-0 defeat to Betis showed fans barracking the travelling party, and TV crews pursuing G-Nev in his latest troublesome episode.
— Photos of Football (@photosofootball) February 7, 2016
Once again, Valencia weren’t horrible; just very flat, only getting into gear in the final panicked moments of the match. A week of wound-licking and huddling would probably be the best diagnosis, with Neville admitting that an awful lot of work was needed on the squad when he arrived, and there’s still more to be done. Unfortunately for the Englishman, who is set to remain at the helm a little while longer it seems, Barcelona are heading for Mestalla to potentially dish out even more punishment in the Copa del Rey.
Barcelona show wear and tear in Levante win
LLL has paid witnesses somewhere to prove this, but the blog predicted Barcelona to win 2-0 at Levante in a fairly scraggly match – and so it came to pass with a perfect storm of predictability. Barça are never at their best at midday – the double-headers against Atlético Madrid and Valencia were always going to strain resources – and sometimes save their most flaccid performance against the weaker teams.
Barça’s opener was an own goal from another cutting move, and the second only arrived during injury time via Luis Suárez, so naturally there was much talk of the very Spanish football concept of “suffering”. Javier Mascherano suggested that the weather conditions had something to do with the performance. “We couldn’t move the ball about quickly, which made us predictable,” explained the Argentine stopper.
Valencia are already planning to turn the Mestalla into a car-testing style wind tunnel for Wednesday night’s Copa return.
Torres finally makes the front pages with 100th Atlético strike
It’s sort of near the Christmas just gone, but the next is just around the corner for Atlético Madrid, with Santa Claus and his elves already tinkering away on new toys. So that’s why LLL had a Yuletide vibe about Atléti’s 3-1 win over visiting Eibar on Saturday.
For starters, there was the Scrooge-like decision from the Rojiblancos denying permission for Eibar to field on-loan forward Borja Bastón unless money was paid. What’s more, it was the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future that were decisive in the win. (Oh dear. This is going to be stretching this angle to breaking point.)
The present was Saúl Ninguez fluffing his lines while standing in at centre-back, due to most of the defensive line being suspended after the Barcelona affair last week. The midfielder’s diddle-daddle allowed Eibar in for the opening from Keko. But it was Saúl and temporary back-four partner José Giménez who smashed home headers from corners to put Atlético ahead, before the great ghost of the future, Luciano Vietto, assisted one from the past in Fernando Torres, who finally got his 100th goal in a Rojiblanco shirt after waiting since September.
Torres’s celebrating figure was on the front covers of both AS and Marca on Sunday, and ‘good for him!’ is the feeling from the blog. It was never a big fan of all the nastiness and rather ill-humoured jibes at the striker’s prowess, as if he was going into hospitals and pushing patients out of beds like an evil cow-tipper.
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Jury still out on Zizou’s Madrid side after Granada getaway
Luka Modric has often been likened to a sacked quarter-back this season, being caught in possession in increasingly sensitive areas. On Sunday that curse continued when the Croatian was robbed by the referee, releasing the ball to a Granada attacker who promptly cancelled out Real Madrid’s opener. But it was Modric who was able to grab Madrid’s winner in a clash that felt more like a draw based on the danger created by the home side.
Reacting to instructions from Zizou to shoot more, Modric did so for a second-half screamer (as Zidane himself would probably admit). It’s far too early to suss out the state of his current Real Madrid side, though, despite the struggles away and huge wins at home.
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