Messi makes the difference, Mourinho makes friends, Espanyol make a mess

Our man in Madrid, Tim Stannard, rounds up the best and worst of the weekend's La Liga action

Good Day

Leo Messi
This is becoming a bit of pattern. Leo Messi sits on the bench and Barça are being held by Betis 2-2, having had to come from behind twice. The Argentinean comes off the aforementioned touchline seating, scoring just four minutes later. Then the Barça hero gets his second to make it 46 in la Liga this season. Not bad, really.

Real Madrid
A fairly strong line-up from José Mourinho and a fairly surprising scoreline in a bit of a mad game that saw a 4-3 win against Valladolid for the home side, to make Barcelona wait at least another weekend to pick up the league title.

Atlético Madrid
Mission accomplished for Atlético Madrid - Champions League football for next season has been achieved, after the point at Deportivo in a goalless draw. Well, at least the qualifying stages anyway, with the Rojiblancos still having a tiny bit of work to do before securing third spot and a longer summer holiday. “It’s a first step,” was the conclusion from Diego Simeone.

Roberto Soldado
The opening goal in the 4-0 win over Osasuna saw Valencia striker 'Bobby Soldier' move onto 19 Liga strikes for the season, the forward’s best tally in a career that has spanned Real Madrid, Osasuna, Getafe and Valencia. The 27-year-old - quite possibly the next big sale from Mestalla - led a bright afternoon for Valencia, who bounced back quickly from the setback of last weekend’s 4-2 defeat to Real Sociedad.

Sevilla
A 3-0 victory for Sevilla over Espanyol still gives Unai Emery hope of qualifying for Europe. If it weren’t for that pesky away game business that sees just the single victory from 16 matches in la Liga, that is. The issue is “every time we have to get on a bus, train or plane to leave Sevilla,” admitted the manic manager.

Alvaro Negredo
The Sevilla forward now has 20 goals this season in la Liga, making it a fun duel to be top Spanish striker with Roberto Soldado, who is just one goal behind.

Levante
Not losing heavily under suspicious circumstances constitutes a good day for Levante, in a performance at Mallorca that was watched very carefully indeed. Levante came away with a point that “honours my players,” thought manager, Juan Ignacio Martínez.

Granada
The Andalusian side are certainly playing with something in their pre-match cups of tea. That special additive is identity, so said manager Lucas Alcaraz after his team pulled out a second 1-0 victory in a row, with a cheeky win over Málaga.

Zaragoza
Winning is so much easier when the first goal comes from a penalty awarded after the ball hits the back of a visiting defender’s knee. That was the luck Zaragoza enjoyed during their 3-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano. Nonsense. Nonsense. Nonsense.

Spain’s Mothers
It was Mothering Sunday in Spain, which saw tributes from players and the papers to these most wonderful of souls. Sort of. AS were a little insulting, by suggesting that Espanyol’s defending was like that of a group of mothers, while Marca went back to the 1950s with a tribute to apron-sporting “mothers who clean boots, wake (their sons) to get them to games, make them numerous breakfasts...”

Bad Day

José Mourinho
The Madrid boss probably doesn’t give two hoots about being booed by fans in the Santiago Bernabéu after last week's comments about the club, its supporters and its goalkeepers. However, Mourinho may have been a little stung by the remarks by the normally loyal Pepe, who took umbrage at his manager saying that he wished he had signed Diego López earlier in his tenure and that “problems exist when one thinks he’s above everyone else.”
“The declarations from the boss weren’t the most appropriate,” sniffed the defender after a leaky performance against Valladolid. “You have to have a bit more respect.” Fortunately for Mourinho, assistant Aitor Karanka was on hand to note that “a lack of respect is to play someone who is not in a condition to play who doesn’t deserve to. Here you don’t play due to status.” Ouch.

Real Sociedad
Why Getafe? Why? Why? Why? Why? In previous matches, you’ve looked so disinterested, but suddenly on Monday night at ten, you have to beat Real Sociedad, ending a run of 15 games without defeat. Why? La Real’s progress to the Champions League places should have been a smooth passage, but this has been messed up with Valencia now just two points behind.

Málaga
Still doing the business at home, but much like a squished hedgehog, they're having a few problems on the road. They've taken just two points from 15 on their travels.

Paco Jémez
La Liga Loca was looking forward to hearing the Rayo Vallecano manager’s thoughts on Zaragoza's controversial first goal against his side. Sadly, heat-stroke apparently prevented the boss of the Madrid side from talking post-match.

Espanyol
“Whenever we talk about Europe, we sh*t ourselves, and against Sevilla we did this to the maximum,” was the brutal opinion of Javier Aguirre after his team lost 3-0 to Sevilla.

Athletic Bilbao
The Basque side are still in trouble. Despite having 38 points on the board with four games to play, they look to be struggling to get enough juice into the cannon to pick up the victory which will probably see them over the finishing line. The 1-1 at Celta continues a run of five matches without a win for the Bilbao outfit, two defeats followed by three draws.

Osasuna
A disastrous performance for the Pamplona in the 4-0 defeat to Valencia also saw two of their brave boys sent off. The northern side has just the one victory from the past nine matches, form that would send the team down to la Segunda should it continue. “We are honourable and we fight but lack a bit of cunning,” lamented Osasuna boss, José Luis Mendilibar.

Deportivo
Four wins in row have been followed by three draws for Deportivo, who are still in all sorts of trouble on 32 points and back in the relegation zone. A poor refereeing display affected both teams on Saturday night in equal measure, but Depor probably were the better off with the point, on chances. “What’s important is that we have one more point and we’ve gone one more game without losing,” said a positive-spinning Fernando Vázquez.

Celta Vigo
They may well have snuck into the Good Day section due to getting a point against a visiting Athletic Bilbao in a 1-1 draw, a side who blew some ridiculous chances. Oscar de Marcos had but the Basque side into the lead, but Iago Aspas equalised with seven minutes to go, in a home match that Celta really needed to have won. But they didn’t, so hey-ho...

Gregorio Manzano
On Sunday morning, Mallorca were unlucky enough to face a Levante side that had to put in at least a half-decent performance after talk of a lack of commitment in two of their previous three games. This saw Mallorca only managing a 1-1 in the Balearics, to leave the club pretty much sunk at the bottom of the table on 29 points with four matches left. “There are options so we are not going to throw in the towel,” said a defiant Manzano.

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