La Liga Loca's half-term report: Why Cristiano earns Real Madrid some minus points
Rayo Vallecano (10th)
The Madrid side continue to be a wonderfully madcap, unpredictable outfit. Even manager Paco Jémez doesn’t know what's coming up next for his team. Take two games in January for example. One week, Rayo lose at home to Córdoba. A few days later they beat Real Sociedad in San Sebastian.
Indeed, Rayo have yet to draw a game in La Liga since the end of August. Craziness. But somehow it seems to work, with Rayo holding strong in 10th. And LLL wouldn’t have it any other way.
Real Madrid (1st)
The easiest way to calculate the mid-season (well, one game away) rating for Real Madrid is start with 10 – a level the club were at a few weeks ago – and deduct points for indiscretions. Three league defeats and three losses to Atlético Madrid in three different competitions: 1.5 points. That Cristiano Ronaldo walrus mating call at the Ballon d’Or: half a point. There. That should do it.
Real Sociedad (12th)
As one fellow Primera pundit has put it, La Real have a fine array of attacking talent that just cannot seem to click and score goals. So the San Sebastian club have brought in a ‘pragmatic’ manager in the shape of David Moyes, who may not be all that familiar with La Liga and definitely not that au fait with the language. Curious. Aside from wins against Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona – quite the collection in isolation – the year so far for La Real just hasn’t clicked and the side find themselves in mid-table just three points above the relegation zone.
LLL now feels that its affection for lovely Sevilla is so great that it blinds its vision when trying to do a fair assessment of the year so far – but in a negative way. It was with some surprise that the blog read the club was on course for one of its strongest first halves ever in La Primera. But the frustrated sensation LLL has is that whenever Sevilla have had the chance to really challenge the top three in a serious manner, the chance has been blown.
Perhaps the most watchable club both on and off the pitch. Nuno has welded an English style of pace and intensity to the technique of La Liga, to produce a team that's proven to be an equal of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid on the right day. All that Nuno has to do is keep up this intensity week in, week out – which should be easier with no midweek competitions – and keep the crowd onside. It's a support that hasn't forgotten the old Mestalla ways of hankie waving at any given opportunity. With Sevilla in action in the Europa League most Thursday nights for at least the next month, fourth place is there for the taking. And maybe even higher.
The days of big cheeses like Giuseppe Rossi and Juan Roman Riquelme at the club may have gone, but the Yellow Submarine have turned the season strategy from consolidation to a proper top-four tilt. With the team's goals spread nicely and few teams noticing their progress, there is a good chance that Marcelino can repeat an impressive first half of the season all over again in the run-up to May.