Mirror. Signal. Manoeuver. These were the words from my driving instructor as we navigated the mean streets of Eltham and Kidbrooke in South East London, and there’s little reason that they can’t be used as a metaphor for life in general and football in particular.
Had Rayo Vallecano’s dandy in residence and trainer Paco Jimenez heeded these words, he’d probably have seen the red and white of Sevilla looming large in the rear view mirror with lights ablaze and horn blaring. If we were to stretch this metaphor to breaking point the Rayo manager would be tootling along in an early eighties three door Ford Fiesta with vinyl seats and wind down windows whilst Sevilla supremo, Unai Emery, would be ensconced in a an Audi R8 with elephant skin seats, voice controlled temperature settings and wings to avoid bothersome stuff. Like traffic, for example.
Anyway, after a seemingly indifferent season, the boys from Seville, have managed to get themselves in the hunt for the final, coveted Europa League spot. This they’ve done through a combination of guile – a three nil spanking of Espanyol at the weekend, for example – and ineptitude on the part of all the other teams around them – particularly Rayo who fell by the same scoreline to relegation threatened Real Zaragoza.
The results leave Espanyol and Rayo locked in a mid-table purgatory, Real Zaragoza within a couple of wins of safety and Sevilla players totting up their air miles as the prospect of some tantalising mid-winter trips to Asia Minor – and Asia Major, for that matter – are pencilled into the diary.
The weekend kicked-off in Vigo where Celta scrambled for a point against Athletic. The result kept the Galicians in the drop zone whilst Los Leones continue to sweat two points shy of the golden forty point target. The early fixture on Saturday saw Osasuna travel to Valencia in an attempt to thwart their own relegation worries. They needn’t have bothered as the four nil pasting left them dangling one point ahead of the drop zone on level pegging with Zaragoza. For their part, Valencia, moved into fifth a mere two points behind Real Sociedad.
Next up were Granada and Malaga. Based on league positions, respective form, managerial nous and playing staff, calling this should have been simple. It was. Granada overcame their rivals by one goal to nil to lift themselves three precious points from the danger zone.
Over at the Casa Bernabeu in Madrid, things are not good. The popularity pendulum of the incumbent Portuguese has swung for the umpteenth time this season from Grumble to Hatred, in the wake of Madrid’s champions league exit to Borussia Dortmund. Mourinho decided to get his retaliation/letter of resignation in early by complaining about certain elements of the squad who think themselves ‘bigger than the club’. Now, we all know that only Jose himself is bigger than the club, but in this case the finger of accusation was pointing at second choice goal keeper; Real Madrid and Spain legend, Iker Casillas. One can only assume that Jose was aware of the potential reaction of fellow players to this accusation (of course he was, he’s engineered it) but if he wasn’t then fellow Luso, Pepe’s outburst in support of the sidelined keeper may have come as a complete surprise. Oh, amidst the clamour Real Madrid squeezed out a four three win over Valladolid. So it’s not all bad then?
Mallorca then took on Levante. Not normally an encounter that stirs passion and pressure in equal measure but one that took on double significance last Thursday. The excellent Diario de Cadiz reported that the game’s governing body, the LFP, were ‘looking into’ Levante’s four nil home drubbing to relegation fodder Depor a few weeks ago. Suddenly all Spanish Eyes were on the islands as the shadow of graft and corruption (as if!) darkened the shining edifice of La Liga. The longer term ramifications may be great for Levante – if the mutterings are to be proved correct – but in the short term, a one all draw kept Mallorca stuck to the bottom of the table and Valencia’s eldest team in mid-table.
Barcelona were looking to win the league on Sunday but Valladolid’s failure to force a draw to Ronaldo and Co. meant that they’d have to win at home to Betis and then go groping for another point this coming weekend. They managed the win by four goals to two and now go to Madrid – Atleti, not Los Blancos – to get the points that will secure yet another title. Atleti fans may have a hard time wondering who to support come Sunday as third place is virtually guaranteed and Madrid’s second spot too big an ask.
Last, but by no means least, La Real travelled to Getafe last night looking for the win that would put them in the fourth spot driving seat. Unfortunately for the Basque’s, Good Getafe turned up and trumped them two one.