Midweek charity from 'Big Two' breathes life into la Liga

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La Liga Loca has a feeling in its special place that something fishy is going on. Very fishy. Just when there was a clamour in Spain for Barcelona and Real Madrid to open the vault to their Manhattan-sized safes and hand out some cash to the paupers of la Primera to even things out a little, both teams have suddenly and ever so accidentally become a little careless of late.

So careless, in fact, that the complaints of the Spanish league being the most unbalanced and hopeless - and sh*t, as Sevilla would put it - in the world have disappeared completely ever since Barcelona and Real Madrid decided to become extremely charitable on the pitch rather than with their cheque books.

But with the responsible blog having to make the assumption that all this craziness isn’t an elaborate ruse from Sandro Rosell and Florentino Pérez, LLL must note that Real Madrid are blooming awful at the moment and no excuse in the world that José Mourinho can come up with can hide it. Though the Madrid boss did his level best to blame both the opposition and referee for Wednesday’s goalless draw against an injury-battered Racing, as well as his own team. “Their cartload of injuries, tackles and simulations they were allowed meant we couldn’t get the necessary rhythm,” complained Mourinho.

It’s been a tough week for Marca too, with the paper having to find alternate front covers in reaction to Madrid’s double failures to Levante and Racing. On Monday morning the European Championship winning Spanish basketball team made the headlines. Three days later and Falcao’s performance in Atlético Madrid’s 4-0 win over Sporting is suddenly of interest to the paper who have had to lock away their “Cristiano is a machine!” headlines for a while. With the paper’s editorial also focussing on the Rojiblancos, it’s up to AS to run around in a blind panic on Thursday instead.

“Is there internal division in the dressing room? Are the Spanish upset with the ostracism of Albiol, Granero and, as of yesterday, Sergio Ramos?” questioned a confused Tomás Roncero after Raphael Varane stood in for the injured Pepe and Alvaro Arbeloa took Ramos’ rampaging spot on the right. “Last night, the team were like their shirt. Black on the outside and on the inside,” fretted the down-in-the-dumps AS man.

The damage to Real Madrid’s title hopes were lessoned a little by Barcelona’s 2-2 draw at Valencia, though ‘the image’ as they say in Spain of the two teams’ performances was contrasting. While Real Madrid managed just two shots on target all match and played the game as if it was a cup second leg in which they held a 7-0 lead, Barcelona rolled up their sleeves in a wonderful slugging match with Valencia that ended in a 2-2 draw.

Indeed the game could have ended in a win for Valencia and Barcelona with Roberto Soldado missing a sitter from two yards with the home side 2-1 up and Guaita pulling out the stops to block Barcelona in the final minutes of a marvel of a match in Mestalla.

“A draw is a point,” admits Lluís Mascaró in Sport, “but not all draws are worth the same. There are draws of champions, luxury draws like Barcelona managed in Mestalla last night. Then there are painful, crappy draws like Madrid’s in Santander.”

The slip-up from both teams - predestined or not - sees Valencia at the top of the table, but with Betis having the remarkable chance to be league leaders if they manage the very achievable goal of beating Zaragoza at home on Thursday night. If so, then the southern side will also go above second-placed, Málaga who made it three wins from three with a 1-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao to make Manuel Pellegrini a very chilled Chilean indeed with his former club Real Madrid two points behind.

Despite Marca’s less than heartfelt reasons for jamming Falcao onto Thursday’s front cover, there’s good reason to be very excited at the Vicente Calderón these days, after Atlético managed back-to-back 4-0 victories, with Falcao grabbing five goals in the wins over Racing and Sporting. “The team is working for him and he is working for the team,” said a pleased-as-punch Gregorio Manzano after the match. “He’s a useful player and one that our fans can enjoy.”

It was a bad night for Madrid’s third side Rayo who fell to a 2-1 defeat to visiting Levante who have now picked up six points in their last two games. The scorer of second goal was the now legendary figure of Sergio Ballesteros who has become the centre of a Twitter trending campaign to get the super-sized stopper called up to the Spanish squad.

To be fair, it’s no stranger a concept that the other bizarre events that have been going on la Liga this week.

Results - Round 5
Osasuna 0-0 Sevilla
Real Sociedad 1-0 Granada
Villarreal 2-0 Mallorca
Atlético Madrid 4-0 Sporting
Málaga 1-0 Athletic Bilbao
Rayo 1-2 Levante
Racing 0-0 Real Madrid
Valencia 2-2 Barcelona
Espanyol v Getafe - Thursday
Betis v Zaragoza - Thursday