A wild week for La Liga's Other 18
Ã¢ÂÂTonight, Matthew, La Liga Loca is going to be Jarvis Cocker.Ã¢ÂÂ Instead of a Stars in Their Eyes (is that still running in the UK? Is John CravenÃ¢ÂÂs Newsround?) rendition of Common People, the blog is going to recreate the Pulp frontmanÃ¢ÂÂs finest moment Ã¢ÂÂ wafting his booty about during Michael Jackson's rendition of Earth Song at the 1996 Brit Awards.
But in this case, instead of publicly pricking the pomposity of the King of Pop, LLL will overlook the limelight-hogging Real Madrid and Barcelona in order to focus on the extras in the background singing "What about us?" Ã¢ÂÂ the other 18 La Liga teams. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs who LLL is focusing on today: The Other 18. So there.
As was to be expected, and as probably didnÃ¢ÂÂt escape anyoneÃ¢ÂÂs attentions, both Real Madrid and Barcelona won their matches to maintain a four-point lead at the top of the table for the forces of Mordor. But there was fun to be found elsewhere, with Valencia retaking third spot thanks to a 4-1 win over Rayo Vallecano that wasnÃ¢ÂÂt as dominant as the scoreline suggests.
Ã¢ÂÂOur play lacked some fluidity because Rayo made it an uncomfortable match for us,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Unai Emery, who enjoyed the experienced of not being booed out of Mestalla for perhaps the first time in two or three months.
MÃÂ¡laga missed out on the chance to hang on to third by being late losers at Villarreal. They started well when Santi Cazorla opened the scoring in the 65th minute, although he displayed his affection for his former side by opting for the non-celebration approach. Unfortunately his team-mates thought this was a naff and each one of them came up to give the little fella a hug and hair ruffle.
The injury-time victory for Villarreal sent the home stadium into bedlam and moved the Yellow Submarine seven points clear of Zaragoza, who crashed 3-0 to Sevilla Ã¢ÂÂ the southern side putting themselves back into European places contention by moving into seventh. Ã¢ÂÂI think that the Villarreal goal affected us because we donÃ¢ÂÂt only depend on our own results but those of our rivals,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Manolo JimÃÂ©nez after the game.
Levante stayed in fourth after twice throwing away leads at Sporting to lose 3-2, despite many doubting the Asturians team had it in them to attempt such a comeback. The home crowd certainly didnÃ¢ÂÂt think so, once again booing coach Javier Clemente, this time when he took off two attacking players with the scores at 1-1.
Ã¢ÂÂIf itÃ¢ÂÂs the public who are making changes then why are they paying me?Ã¢ÂÂ scoffed the people-influencing, friend-winning manager. Despite the hard-earned home win, Sporting remain in big relegation trouble thanks to Villarreal's late victory: like Zaragoza, Sporting remain seven points from safety; unlike Zaragoza, Sporting's next game is away to Real Madrid.
Under them in the Segunda-bound slurry tank are Racing, who were tonked 3-0 at home by Mallorca to leave the Santander side rock-bottom on 25 points. Ã¢ÂÂThere is still a mathematical possibility, but itÃ¢ÂÂs not a big one,Ã¢ÂÂ said Racing boss ÃÂlvaro Cevera on his teamÃ¢ÂÂs survival chances.
By contrast, Mallorca's win put them on 40 points and one victory from sure safety Ã¢ÂÂ although that now seems to be a dead topic in la Primera, considering the bottom three of Racing, Sporting and Zaragoza are looking very done and dusted indeed.
Round 34 Predictions
Real Madrid v Sporting Ã¢ÂÂ Home win
Levante v Barcelona Ã¢ÂÂ Away win
Espanyol v Valencia Ã¢ÂÂ Draw
Zaragoza v Granada Ã¢ÂÂ Home win
Betis v Osasuna Ã¢ÂÂ Home win
MÃÂ¡laga v Real Sociedad Ã¢ÂÂ Home win
Villarreal v Racing Ã¢ÂÂ Home win
Athletic Bilbao v Mallorca Ã¢ÂÂ Home win
Rayo Vallecano v AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid Ã¢ÂÂ Away win
Getafe v Sevilla Ã¢ÂÂ Away win