Footie Forever
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Week 23

The top four remained unchanged over the weekend, but you still get the sense that things are really heating up in Spain as we head into spring. Let's take a look at the main action:

Real Madrid 3 - Alavés 0 -- Two early goals put the game essentially out of reach for struggling Alavés, as Madrid continued their good form. The main points of attraction for the match were the re-appearance of Raúl (back from a three month injury layoff) and the mighty circus over which Alavés club owner (read: Master of Ceremonies) Piterman presides. Alavés, now on their fourth manager (read: Piterman lackey) this season, was the subject of ridicule for most of the week and did little tactically to remove the smirks from the onlookers, having started the match with three abandoned strikers up top. Result: two goals in ten minutes for Madrid. There was some improvement for the visitors in the second half, but the result was never much in doubt. Cicinho continued his bright start in white with the third, nail-in-the-coffin, goal. (Videos below)

There were quite a few positives to take from this match, if you are a Madrid fan (which I am!), although it is always a bit tricky to draw conclusions about how your team has played when the competition was rather lacking in key areas such as midfield pressure and attacking skills. Still, these are the things I liked:
Guti was very classy in the middle and set the tone right away with his strike at the five minute mark. It was good to have him back on form, as this week marks a return to Champions League action with a game against Arsenal.
Baptista played his best game for Madrid, despite not scoring. He looked more comfortable and confident on the ball, having only the post to blame for not having scored on his incredible overhead shot. It really was a great effort which he followed up later with some very good strikes. It is telling that his efforts are being applauded by the home crowd, whilst those (lack thereof) of another, more prominent Brazilian are being jeered.
Diogo played in the DM role for the first time (to my recollection) and looked surprisingly comfortable. He tackled well, did a decent job anticipating the flow, and moved especially well off-the-ball to make himself available as a passing outlet. This is a very important, yet sometimes overlooked, aspect to playing DM. I know not whether he will get a chance against Arsenal, but I sure wouldn't mind seeing him in that position again.
Ramos was again quite solid in the back and even had a couple of well-timed runs forward. He is really beginning to look in his element.
Raúl played again! He even had some nice touches, a legal-looking goal called off, and a hand in Cicinho's goal. It will be interesting to see where López Caro plays him once he is back to full fitness.
And now a look at some of the other action around the league:
Barcelona 5 - Betis 1 -- Catalán supporters will point to the scoreline as evidence their team's form is "back," but I am not yet convinced. This was a strange game with nearly all of the good fortune falling to Barça's side. Own goals, strange deflections, and an inspired Valdés minding the net all conspired to gloss the result. Still, it must be said that good teams create their own luck, and perhaps that is what we saw here. Everyone is waiting to see their match against Chelsea this week, though! Meanwhile, Betis find themselves back in the relegation zone (on goal difference) and will likely have as much trouble finding comfort as they do finding the back of the opponents' net.

Real Sociedad 1 - Valencia 2 -- Very good win for Valencia coming off their victory against Barcelona last week. La Real always seems to make things difficult when the top teams come visiting, but Valencia, thanks to two Regueiro goals, dealt with the challenge.

Cádiz 1 - Osasuna 3 -- Things seem to be back on track for the side from Pamplona, who are still hanging on to the last CL spot. The Andalusians worked hard but came up against a side that matched their workrate and finished with more class, punctuated by a nice goal from substitute Raul García, Osasuna's teen sensation.

Villarreal 4 - Espanyol 0 -- Is the yellow submarine back from the depths? Probably not. It was, by all accounts an inflated scoreline that bore little resemblance to what actually happened on the pitch. Still, it should raise their morale a bit before their CL match against Rangers.

Other results
Getafe 0 - Atlético de Madrid 3
Sevilla 1 - Celta 0
Málaga 0 - Mallorca 2
Racing 0 - Athletic Bilbao 1
Deportivo 1 - Zaragoza 1
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The Table

1 Barcelona 55
2 Valencia 49
3 Real Madrid 48
4 Osasuna 46
5 Sevilla 41
6 Celta 39
7 Villarreal 38
8 Deportivo 37
9 Atlético 35
10 Zaragoza 33
11 Getafe 30
12 Racing 27
13 Real Sociedad 25
14 Espanyol 24
15 Athletic 22
16 Alavés 22
17 Cádiz 22
18 Mallorca 22
19 Betis 22
20 Málaga 20


Etoo 18
Villa 15
Ronaldinho 12
Diego Milito 12
Ronaldo 10
Tristán 9
Riquelme 9
Güiza 8

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