La Review: Bleak for Barcelona, Madrid derby drama, ham and barnacles

Madrid derbies, Barcelona defeats and northern barnacles: it's all too much for Tim Stannard...

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Too much! Too much stuff and nonsense went on in La Liga this weekend and not enough internet space to cover it. Good job that there’s a football-free fortnight to allow some wiggle room for more thoughtful reflection.

Not enough space to cover the result that La Liga Loca feared for Villarreal with an away defeat to the irritating Levante on Sunday evening – but at least the Yellow Submarine stays on top. Not enough space to cover Athletic Bilbao settling a few nerves with a victory in San Mamés against a Valencia side who will be much discussed over the days to come.

Not enough space to cover Real Sociedad going from bad to worse with a self-inflicted defeat to Málaga, who hadn’t previously scored this season. But here’s what LLL did have space for.

Referee is top banana in fruity Madrid derby

That derby was actually a lot of fun, despite the stats showing a bare minimum of shots on target. Another hiding for Real Madrid was never on the cards, with Rafa Benítez fielding a more combative midfield than Carlo Ancelotti would ever dream up. Meanwhile, Atlético Madrid aren’t quite the snarling force of the past two seasons, although the tackles are still X-rated and the commitment shown to get back into the game was admirable. A draw felt about right, although were it not for Keylor Navas' saves from a penalty and Jackson Martínez late on, Atlético might have continued their neighbours’ recent Calderón curse. Although Navas took the most plaudits due to the weirdly absent Cristiano Ronaldo, LLL was fairly impressed with the referee who managed to keep everyone on the pitch – Sergio Ramos could have gone three times in the penalty incident – and let play carry on between two teams who were matching tackles in terms of brusqueness. One person who was not happy at all with the performance and result was über-fan Tomás Roncero, writing in AS: “The team was fearful, cold, calculating, speculative and without hunger.” Looks like Rafa still has some supporters to win over. 

Denied: Navas springs to save the spot-kick

Denied: Navas springs to save the spot-kick

Not all bad for Barça after Sevilla defeat

La Liga Loca is feeling in a coddling mood – must be the onset of autumn, the approach of Christmas or the results of experimenting with cider again. It’s not all bad for Barcelona: a couple inches either way of some woodwork (or fibreglass, or whatever) and Sevilla may have been beaten on Saturday.

A team supposedly in crisis has the same number of points as Real Madrid and is just one off the top of the table going into the international break. And Neymar looked half-decent, too. Of course, context is everything. Leo Messi is missing for the next six weeks. No reinforcements are allowed until January and the Catalan club has lost two of its last three league games. So it’s no wonder that there are a few glum faces in the Camp Nou crowd these days. However, Barcelona have been in much stickier situations of late.

Last season was a prime example, battling a Real Madrid team on a record-breaking winning run. To this end, it’s too early for Barça fans to go running to the hills. As Joan Vehils writes in Sport: “last season, Luis Enrique overcame everything to win the treble. This year, he has to do it all over again.”

Celta “can’t eat ham every day” in La Liga

LLL must admit that it was a little down in the dumps about Celta’s failure to beat Getafe on Friday night. The Madrid side should have been thrashed into atoms in the opening 20 minutes but Getafe clung on to the end and held out for a goalless draw. Very frustrating when the home side deserved an awful lot more going into the international break. The frown was turned upside down a little, though, when Nolito pointed out that “you can’t eat ham every day.” That’s not entirely true in Spain, where eating ham every day is not only possible but quite popular among a surprising number of people. Like Maniche. 

Ham: popular in Spain (and elsewhere)

Ham: popular in Spain (and elsewhere)

Two surprise packages from the North

Two northern teams that LLL expected to be hanging around the hull of La Primera like La Liga limpets are Deportivo and Eibar. Instead, both are doing fine and dandy atop the ship, proclaiming themselves to be kings of the world. Eibar are repeating last season’s rapid start to the season by picking up 12 points from seven games, a third of what they’ll probably need to stay up – plenty of breathing space for a final-third campaign crash like last year’s. The latest victory came at Las Palmas, not bad for an away trip that is the Air Miles equivalent of playing Malmo.

Deportivo were also set for an away win until Granada’s Piti spoiled the fun with his first goal for nine months. However, the point continues an impressive start for the Galicians, considering their limited resources, with Depor losing just the single league game and going into the fortnight of doom in sixth.