FourFourTwo.com's Spanish specialist Tim Stannardcontinues to run the rule over the first half of the 2011/12 season in the Primera Liga...
Levante - current position 4th
Given Levante are in the Champions League places it would take Pepe-level madness to not hand out top marks to the biggest swats of the class this season, Levante.
Under new coach Juan Ignacio MartÃÂnez, Levante have continued in the first half of this season where the Valencia team finished the second half of the previous campaign - like a steam roller plodding along at 30 miles per hour. The team may be overtaken by a bunch of other teams come May, but itÃ¢ÂÂs very hard to stop their momentum in the meantime. The veteran back five have been magnificent, the midfield industrious and the forward line brutally efficient in converting chances.
There is the feeling, though, in LLLÃ¢ÂÂs waters that once Levante wheeze over the 42 point mark, which could be done by the end of next month, then a slide down the table would be inevitable, with a European place neither feasible or perhaps desirable given the limited size of their squad.
LLL Rating A+
MÃÂ¡laga - 10th
An enormous stinker of a disappointment. In a season where Osasuna, Levante and Espanyol are currently dueling it out for fourth spot, it should have been a cinch for MÃÂ¡laga to have swooped in to join the party, having invested Ã¢ÂÂ¬58m on nine shiny new players over the summer. The clubÃ¢ÂÂs owners must surely have expected more bang for their buck than the current 10th spot and barely a memorable performance thus far in la Liga.
Manuel Pellegrini has claimed a lack of effort, concentration and energy from his players, with Santi Cazorla - the most expensive of the lot - suggesting the team need to be a little less prissy in their play and considerably more effective. Of the nine signings, only Isco has done the footballing business, with Ruud Van Nistelrooy looking particularly ineffective and upset at his lot. Julio Baptista is due to return soonish, but if MÃÂ¡laga fail to make at least top six this season, by gum drops there will be some heads rolling in May.
LLL Rating: D-
Mallorca - 14th
Institutionally, it was a rocky start for Mallorca. Michael Laudrup fell out with majority shareholder Lorenzo Serra Ferrer over signings, style and most probably what to have breakfast - LLL suspects a herring vs chocolate donut debate. The team were doing just fine though, and thatÃ¢ÂÂs how it has continued under JoaquÃÂn CaparrÃÂ³s who took over from the Dane. The most experienced coach currently managing in la Primera will keep a club in administration and with a limited squad up for another year without too much fuss.
LLL Rating: C+
Osasuna - 6th
Another team overachieving like crazy this season. Osasuna are normally very strong in front of their mad as bats supporters, but immensely flaky away from home. That has changed a little this year, with Osasuna managing to pick up three wins and two draws away from Pamplona. The most Scottish Spanish coach in la Liga, JosÃÂ© Luis Mendilibar, continues to shout and scowl his way through a season doing the best with a limited squad whose top scorer, Ibrahim BaldÃÂ©, has only managed five goals.
Their 27 points see Osasuna peering carefully at a European place - although that might be a stretch - rather than the relegation zone and the supporters will be more than chuffed with that. Once theyÃ¢ÂÂve stopped throwing stuff at you and telling you to leave town.
LLL Rating: A
Racing Santander - 16th
An all round stinky pudding of the season for Racing really, but with some light at the end of the tunnel of desert. An Ã¢ÂÂownerÃ¢ÂÂ being investigated by Interpol, a Ã¢ÂÂboardÃ¢ÂÂ appointed by the Ã¢ÂÂownerÃ¢ÂÂ too dysfunctional to look after the club say the administrators and three coaches running the teamÃ¢ÂÂs affairs after HÃÂ©ctor CÃÂºper left in November.
However, this trio have done remarkably well for the club with SundayÃ¢ÂÂs defeat against Getafe being the first of the six games that they have been in charge. Racing are currently out of the relegation zone, however the blog is not sure thatÃ¢ÂÂs how it will be come May.
LLL Rating: C
Rayo Vallecano - 13th
Perhaps the best fans in the la Liga this season have cheered on a team that are doing just fine, despite everything thatÃ¢ÂÂs working against them. That includes ongoing squabbles over contracts and money, a manager that feels is not being backed by the owner despite what has been achieved and absolute dog of a pitch that the club neither have the time nor the money to change.
Indeed, RayoÃ¢ÂÂs three-sided, noisy, Trotskyist fans on top of the opposition stadium should be a bonus to the club in its bid to stay up, but Rayo have only won three at home, losing five along the way. It could be touch and go for the clubÃ¢ÂÂs survival bid, but fingers crossed from LLL that itÃ¢ÂÂs all ok come May.
LLL Rating: B+
Real Madrid - 1st
A bit of perspective please! Although those only interested in tittle, tattle and gossip - thatÃ¢ÂÂs LLL, for one - may be focussing on the scrap between Mourinho and his players, fans, the press and possibly the club president, letÃ¢ÂÂs not forget that Real Madrid are currently at the top of the table, with club record goals and points tallies for a first half of a season, have a five point lead over housewifeÃ¢ÂÂs favourite Barcelona, and had a spotless record in the Champions League.
Technically speaking, everything has gone rather well for Madrid, aside from that losing to Barcelona business and the blog would be very surprised indeed if Mourinho doesnÃ¢ÂÂt win at least the league this season, perhaps before stomping off to England.
LLL Rating: A-
Part One:Athletic Bilbao to Granada
Part Three: On Thursday - Real Sociedad to Zaragoza
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