La Review: Will it be bye-bye Benítez after Clásico calamity?
The Powers That Be have handed La Liga Loca some gifts this weekend, a blog that has the same fondness and desire for hard work and effort as Gareth Bale. A proper sloshing of a defeat by Barcelona means that "Rafa Benítez" will be the most written words in the Spanish press since rumours of tax relief on ham turned out to be mere rumour. This is going to be easy pickings.
But there's tons of other business to be covered from the weekend of a non-Clásico variety, including a potential midweek sacking and Eibar feeling aggrieved for not being in the Champions League places.
Bernabéu turns its fury on Florentino
“Real Madrid were pummelled four-zero by Barcelona,” was the response from the Australian-accented Siri – LLL’s always liked the dulcet tones of Madge from Neighbours – when asked to give it a general vibe on the result of the Clásico. The billions spent by Steve Jobs came up trumps.
Madrid were barely at the races aside from a six-minute spell at the start of the second half. But unlike the 5-0 Barcelona handed José Mourinho’s team in a performance that no team in the world could have withstood, a sluggish, rattled Madrid turned up to the Bernabéu with cheers but left with jeers.
Most of those were aimed at Florentino Pérez up in his posh president’s seat – and that was the feeling in a morning-after Marca poll, with Rafa Benítez finishing second in the supporters’ blame game. “The Bernabéu wants heads” was the ominous warning on the front cover of Sunday’s edition of the paper.
That’s not to say Benítez is off the hook, with a majority calling for the coach’s head – a narrative that has existed since the beginning of the season, when the popular Carlo Ancelotti was fired for no good reason.
The simple fact of the matter is that Barcelona were light years ahead in terms of speed, work-rate, determination and character. “We didn’t play as team,” admitted Luka Modric, “and that’s not the first time that’s happened.” It’s no wonder that Isco received the biggest applause from the home fans for his red-carded lunge on Neymar, a sign that at least one player was rattled by the beating dished out by Barcelona.
Florentino is unlikely to sack a coach who was his personal choice and quite the gamble unless things get a whole lot worse – perhaps learning from Barça hanging onto to Luis Enrique in January, before the manager went on to win a treble. However, Rafa is almost certainly on a yellow card with constant stories that his connection with the dressing room is non-existent.
Lack of Piqué pique over five failure reflects a basking Barcelona
Week 12 results
Barcelona went into the Clásico as a confident, chilled-out bunch of campers, quite comfortable playing without Leo Messi... and that’s how the club ended Saturday evening. The football up front was fast, furious and quite mesmerising, the players switching the ball with the speed and precision of a team of LeBron James clones. But playing basketball. Obviously.
The only regret would have been felt by Gerard Piqué. Desperate to score a fifth to launch the mother of all goal celebrations in the heart of Mordor, he was thwarted by Munir, who scuffed a shot that was falling perfectly for Piqué.
Perhaps in a sign of Barcelona’s sense of ease and joie de vivre, the defender issued a photo of himself with Munir – no strangulation involved – telling the forward “Next time, you leave it to me, eh!”
Atlético Madrid continue to live dangerously
LLL was genuinely feeling for Diego Simeone’s health in the final five minutes of Atlético Madrid’s clash with Real Betis. A series of chances were being blown in the hunt to double a slender 1-0 lead, while the home side were counter-attacking with some gusto in an attempt to sneak a late equaliser.
That would have been a little unfair on visitors deserving the win that took the Rojiblancos into second place above Real Madrid. “We just want to keep improving,” was the post-match message from the Argentine boss, who still doggedly follows the game-by-game philosophy.
Hankies out for Valencia after Mestalla mess-up
Coach Nuno really didn’t need that result. In fact, what coach Nuno needed was for Las Palmas to come to Mestalla and help Valencia continue the good vibes created by the 5-1 win at Celta a fortnight ago.
But the Canary Islanders are made of sterner stuff under new boss Quique Setién; indeed, the manager had alluded to some vulnerabilities with the opposition by noting that “I don’t know if Valencia have a great team but they have very good players.”
Those players took the lead early doors in Saturday’s clash, but then wobbled alarmingly before hanging on for a 1-1 draw to see some hankies out for Nuno at the end of the game. “We didn’t know how to control the game,” admitted the Portuguese manager, who cannot be enjoying the job at all. Few do.
Eibar miss out on magic win in Madrigal
It sums up just how blooming well Eibar are doing this season that a point in El Madrigal is being seen as a disappointing result. A missed penalty from the Basque team at 1-0 up and a late equaliser for Villarreal stopped Eibar from ending the weekend in the Champions League places. Instead, the 1-1 draw leaves Eibar in sixth on 20 points, with half of the job done already in the team’s main mission for the season – staying up. “A very sweet and sour sensation,” admitted Elbar boss José Luis Mendilibar after the game. At least the players will have some fun next weekend... Real Madrid are in town.
La Real finally get win in post-Moyes world
It took new Real Sociedad coach Eusebio Sacristán just one game what David Moyes failed to do in five – win at home. Another thing the new guy enjoyed compared to his predecessor was luck: Real Sociedad took advantage of not one but two misplaced headers inside his own half from Grzegorz Krychowiak, to give La Real a 2-0 win and Sevilla a tough return from the international break.
Celta smarting after Galician derby disaster
A second defeat in a row for the previously unstoppable Celta is going to smart a bit, as it was against Deportivo in the Galician derby. There will be extra wincing with Celta missing a penalty at 1-0 down and then succumbing to an own goal from Jonny, who aimed a ball over the top back to his goalkeeper without realising that his team-mate was no longer anywhere near the goal.
Málaga manager on sack-watch list
Troubled times at Málaga. With conflict between the owners in Qatar and the management on Spain’s south coast, it’s manager Javi Gracia potentially in the line of fire. A defeat to Espanyol left poor Málaga at the bottom of the table with just two wins from 12 and a rather beleaguered Gracia noting that “the situation we are facing is very worrying.”
Meanwhile, there were a couple of eyebrow-raising results for a couple of Málaga’s fellow bottom-feeders with Granada defeating Athletic Bilbao and Levante grabbing a rough-and-tumble 3-0 at Sporting Gijon for only the team’s second win this season.