La Liga wrap: Mourinho’s Madrid left to focus on Champions League
La Liga wrap: Real Madrid lose their third away game to leave them 11 points behind Barcelona. Tom Wellman reports
Madrid left to focus on the Champions League
In a week of contrasting fortunes for both clubs, Real Betis took full advantage of Real Madrid’s sloppy away form and won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Beñat Etxebarria. Betis had lost 5-1 to fierce rivals Sevilla last week and fans had jeered the team at training following the embarrassment, but just six days later, and the players were cheered like heroes at the final whistle. As for Madrid, they are now 11 points behind Barcelona with their only realistic chance of silverware coming in the Champions League or Copa del Rey. Los Blancos’ away form has been their downfall, losing a third game on their travels this season and Cristiano Ronaldo has just a single goal in his last six games. Madrid have struggled to break resilient teams down away from home and look a shadow of the imperious title winners last season.
La Masia 4 Levante 0
A side comprised completely of talent nurtured through the renowned ‘La Masia’ youth academy saw off Levante to extend Barcelona’s lead over Real Madrid. Andres Iniesta shone after half-time as the number eight scored one and set up the other three goals, proving his ability matches that of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo. On the subject of Argentinian magician, he grabbed another two goals – his 81st and 82nd of 2012, just three shy of Gurd Muller’s record – maintaining his impress recent strike-rate ratio. Cesc Fabregas notched a fourth and Victor Valdes saved a late penalty to cap off a resounding team display against a usually stubborn Levante squad.
Awesome Atletico pursue Barca but face defining fortnight
Last week, Sevilla thrashed arch rivals Betis but they thundered back down to earth at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico Madrid, unstoppable at home, gave Míchel’s side a taste of their own medicine with a 4-0 battering. Radamel Falcao ended his three-game drought with a penalty, and a Emir Spahić own goal and Koke volley effectively finished the game by half-time. Miranda added a late fourth in the 4-0 win as eight-man Sevilla crumbled. Federico Fazio saw red as he gave away Falcao’s penalty, Ivan Rakitić earned a second yellow and substitute Antonio Luna was dismissed from the bench for arguing with the referee. Atletico now face a tough two weeks with trips to Real and Barca that could define whether they are genuine title contenders or not.
Malaga boast a significant gap over Champions League rivals Valencia
Last season, Malaga and Valencia duelled with Atletico for a coveted Champions League berth, finishing ahead of the Madrid club in the top four. Since, the tables have turned. Atletico have stormed into second and Malaga have maintained their form from last year but Valencia have struggled to keep pace. A fifth away defeat of the season could mean that a challenge for the Europa League rather than the Champions League is more realistic as they were humbled by Malaga. Francisco Portillo, Javier Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz and Isco showed how wide the gap has become since May, putting Mauricio Pellegrino under pressure once again. The clubs may have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League but only one team seems likely to appear in the competition next season.
Pochettino finally departs as Getafe aim for European place
After delaying his departure, the Espanyol board decided to sack Mauricio Pochettino following the 2-0 defeat to Getafe. The Argentine’s job had been in doubt since rumours of his sacking circulated two weeks ago but Espanyol had given Pochettino an extra chance. Two further losses resulted in Pochettino’s exit as Marcelino Garcia Toral steps in to succeed his former boss. Espanyol currently sit bottom of the table so Toral will have his work cut out to keep the club in the top flight. Opponents Getafe condemned the club to their third straight loss as they avoided the limelight once again despite moving up to seventh. The Madrid based team have been spectacularly inconsistent – with six wins and six losses this season. With Sevilla and Valencia suffering, could they mount a charge for a Europa League spot?