Villarreal set to go on the defensive (and dour), but Barça back in business
A large, dark shadow has fallen across the land in la Liga. No, Maniche isnÃ¢ÂÂt blocking out the sun again, the Lord of Doom, the King of Crying, the Price of Appalling Football, Miguel Angel Lotina has returned.
Last seen relegating Deportivo last season in abysmal style, Lotina has been appointed as the new coach of Villarreal after SundayÃ¢ÂÂs sacking of JosÃÂ© Molina, who was in turn appointed Villarreal coach after DecemberÃ¢ÂÂs sacking of Juan Carlos Garrido.
The first question on everybody's lips is whether Lotina is going to ruin what few positive aspects are left to Villarreal, a team lying fourth from bottom, three points from the relegation zone. The message from the former Deportivo man is Ã¢ÂÂabsolutely not, promises, promisesÃ¢ÂÂ.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm not going to change the philosophy of the team after ten years of great football,Ã¢ÂÂ claimed Lotina at his unveiling on Monday. Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm so happy to be here,Ã¢ÂÂ added the new Yellow Submarine Admiral, trying his best to force a smile. ÂÃ¢ÂÂThe excitement I have is tremendous.Ã¢ÂÂ
AS scribe Javi Mata, for one, is less than convinced the El Madrigal faithful are going to be backing the appointment of Lotina, a coach who makes his Villarreal debut against Real Madrid on Wednesday. Ã¢ÂÂAfter testing the waters of Villarreal fan reaction, I donÃ¢ÂÂt know whether theyÃ¢ÂÂve signed Lotina or one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.Ã¢ÂÂ
Although a brand new midweek round of two matches - BarÃÂ§a vs Granada and Osasuna vs Getafe - is about to begin, the dust has barely settled on the final fixture of the last round, with Espanyol beating Racing 3-1 on Monday evening to move the Pericos into sixth and leave the side from Santander stuck fast in the relegation zone. Ã¢ÂÂA big week for Espanyol, a point against Betis on Thursday and victory at home to MÃÂ¡laga next Sunday will mark them dow as serious contenders for fourth. Racing will be lucky to avoid the drop. Commitment, yes. Ability, not really,Ã¢ÂÂ was the verdict from LLL correspondent, Paul from Barcelona, watching the game in Cornella.
The talk in both the Real Madrid and Barcelona corners of the press is whether or not the league title race is back on. As the answer is "probably not, but hey, no-one really knows. Football is a funny old game," there is much pouring over fixture lists and fretting in Marca and AS over why Madrid didnÃ¢ÂÂt beat MÃÂ¡laga on Sunday. Ã¢ÂÂIs eight points enough?Ã¢ÂÂ asks MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs concerned front cover on Tuesday.
Pep Guardiola continues to think so, with the BarÃÂ§a coach admitting that Ã¢ÂÂI keep on thinking that it is going to take a lot and we wonÃ¢ÂÂt manage it. I still see it as impossible.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂPants on fire,Ã¢ÂÂ says AS editor, Alfredo RelaÃÂ±o, Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs not going to convince anyone, let alone the clubÃ¢ÂÂs fans.Ã¢ÂÂ
Barcelona have the chance to temporarily close the gap at the top of the table to five points against Granada on Tuesday evening - cue giant Ã¢ÂÂFIVE POINTSÃ¢ÂÂ headline on front cover of Sport on Wednesday morning.
Eagle-eyed fans will spot Carlos Martins lining up for the opposition, despite the midfielder being sent off on Saturday. However the relevant FA committee which deals with bans and suspensions and what-not did not meet on Monday due to a bank holiday in Madrid. Of course. Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs details like this, unquestionable, in other countries that put the quality of the league into doubt,Ã¢ÂÂ tuts another completely balanced Marca editorial.
Osasuna v Getafe - Home win
Barcelona v Granada - Home win