While neither Real Madrid or Barcelona are firing on all cylinders this season, it’s the Catalan club that is delivering results at the top of the table
Madrid deservedly came crashing down in Girona’s football frenzy (2-1)
You just simply can’t play a top football game with that attitude.
Zinedine Zidane watched with dismay how his players strolled about the pitch in an impressive showcase of apathy while Pablo Machín’s Girona flew around them with top-level motivation.
The outcome (a resounding defeat) is expected 99% of times, although Real managed to reduce that percentage greatly thanks to their ‘Madrid-ness’. Many, many times throughout the years have Los Blancos come out of the fight unscathed thanks to sheer quality and also that much-needed pinch of luck.
Not this time, though. Girona scored a huge win over the reigning champions with the usual recipe: a loud crowd at home, discipline in spades, effort and pinpoint accuracy at key moments. While only Isco managed to play at a decent level for the visitors (he scored the 0-1 in the 12th minute), Girona’s Cristian Portu, Pablo Maffeo, Álex Granell and company managed to overwhelm Los Blancos after half-time.
Portu himself and Christian Stuani placed two daggers into Madrid’s chances of winning La Liga. As a side note, there were absolutely zero incidents in the stadium in the midst of Catalonia’s political crisis, and that is always good news.
Barça sneak in and out of La Catedral with the three points in their pocket (0-2)
Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona can be summarized in three words this season: order, Messi, Ter Stegen (that’s four, but bear with me…). The Blaugranas only need a few light touches of inspiration to come away squeaky clean out of any scrap. Even visiting Bilbao and winning becomes some kind of chore when the day is propitious.
A traditional stronghold where many teams perish at the gates, New San Mamés was easily assaulted by a team that is currently breezing through the competition, with nine wins in a row and spectacular figures across the board. Messi’s magic build up from scratch, the wonderful play that allowed him to score the first goal, every first-touch pass with awe-inspiring precision. When Athletic pressed forward, Ter Stegen was the one to fend off any attacks. And, in the 90th minute, Paulinho (his impact has been quite impressive to date) pocketed the second and secured the three points.
Valencia has found its sweet spot and cleans up in Mendizorroza (1-2)
Magician manager Marcelino has completed the 180º turnaround he promised last summer. Valencia has transformed from a poor, soulless squad with no clue of how to play, into a crushing, team-devouring machine, perfectly oiled and operated by players who are at their peak of confidence right now. Take Simone Zaza, for example: the guy seemed sluggish for a few games last season, but he scored yet again against Alavés and that makes six games in a row, with a total of eight goals in nine games. As he jokingly stated recently: “I’m LaLiga’s top scorer… because Messi doesn’t count!”
Record-breaking 11-game losing streak for Pako Ayestarán (1-3)
I actually don’t think he’s that bad of a manager, but the truth is Pako Ayestarán’s stint on Las Palmas’ bench might be short-lived if he continues losing. The fourth defeat in a row for him (Deportivo won with ease), if added to his time as Valencia coach (three losses at the end of the 2015-2016 season plus four more when he began the 2016-2017 one, before being sacked) makes a total of eleven consecutive games lost. That doesn’t bode well for the Canary Island team at all.
Málaga lives! (2-1)
In what could’ve been Míchel’s last game as their manager, the Malaga players coped with the pressure and were able to overcome their (quite evident) limitations with a desperate win in the last minute against Celta de Vigo. Adrián González (Míchel’s son) scored in the first half and, after Iago Aspas drew the game in the second, Recio scored from the penalty spot with five minutes to go. Malaga are still bottom of the league (only Alavés has less points), but the coach will remain in his position for the moment.