What a strange season it’s been. Barça’s relentless invincibility combined with loses for their noteworthy foes from the capital meant that the league was effectively in the bag by November and we haven’t had the attendant sense of tension going into the numerous rounds fixtures since. Not that this makes the campaign boring, you understand.
The runaway Catalan glory boys all round excellence in the face of widely documented testing managerial conditions – having two managers seemingly interchanging roles one of whom is battling cancer – is no mean feat. Doing this in front of a global audience who may empathise but still want to see results and style combined is an arduous task.
But Barça’s omnipotence has given us the opportunity to look at other teams who have quietly yet surely inched their way forward in terms of style of play and league position.
Apart from the brief 2003-4 appearance in the Champions league where Real Sociedad lost to Lyon in the last 16, the last time “Txuriurdin” graced the top table of European Football (for being “real” champions) was in the early eighties after a last gasp Balonazo in Gijon one sodden afternoon brought the title to San Sebastian for the last time to date. With the financial inequalities of modern Spanish football, a repeat of this achievement may be some way off, yet battling with the big boys in Euro land now looks to be a good bet and a possible repeat of a nineteen eighty two showdown with Celtic which must have been interesting for anybody morbidly fascinated by footballers with bubble perms and zapata moustaches, as we are at El Balonazo. With eight games to go La Real sit fourth with a four point gap over Malaga who they dispatched by four goals to two at the weekend. Generally the Andalucians are pretty good travellers what with getting a break from their vegetable patch but clearly couldn’t deal with a bit of Basque verve.
At the other end of the table crunch time for a sextet of teams thrashing it out to avoid the drop. Osasuna shouldn’t be in this position but are and a two nil home reverse to Espanyol won’t help as as they’re dragging themselves into a scrap where only five points separate them from the forlorn Barça battered Mallorca at rock bottom. And no further points were added to Granada’s total of twenty eight when they were put to the sword at home to Betis in a five one ROMP for the verdiblancos.
Sandwiched between these two are Zaragoza who have a single point advantage over a Depor team who beat them on Saturday night after a pulsating three-two encounter. Depor looked dead and buried only a few weeks ago yet are now within touching distance of salvation. Immediately below them, and level on points with the Mallorquins, are Celta who entertained Rayo Vallecano. The Madrilleños continued their fantastic season with a two nil win which deepens the woe in Vigo and increases Rayo’s own quest for European football.
Back at the top, Madrid cemented their second spot with a five one homer over Levante. The Valencians’ season seems to have petered out after the rigours of the Europa League on a shoestring budget but are surely safe for another battle next season on forty points.
Madrid’s cross town rivals and second spot shirkers Atleti slipped again as they were held to a goalless draw in Getafe in the south Madrid badlands and whilst they may be eleven points ahead of fourth place they’ll be disappointed to have let Madrid get three points of air ahead in the battle for second. Especially in a season that seemed to offer so much, so recently.
Valencia bested Valladolid or El Clasico de anglophone Mispronunciation (Balencia and Baya Dolidth since you ask) by two goals to one and seem to be building some sort of momentum in an otherwise stop/start campaign. They now sit two points behind La Real in the Champions League chase. Meanwhile, Valladolid are busy peering through travel brochures.
Last game of the round saw Sevilla beat Athletic two one in the Pizjuan. Talk about seasons that never really started.