With a floundering Real Madrid relegated to the Monday night doom zone, a set of demolition derbies stood proud in La Liga
With the championship race already settled (it’s only a matter of when and how, even if Barça continue to push their luck with bizarre line-ups such as the one Ernesto Valverde picked against Huesca), LaLiga’s main drawing point has been for weeks the battle for Europe and the relegation rat race.
Not really that exciting when compared to other competitions such the Champions League, right?
Fact is, the relegation battle has become a royal-rumble-esque affair with more and more teams complicating their own existence. In similar fashion, the scrap to seize that precious fourth place in LaLiga now has even more contenders as teams such as Athletic Club have managed to jump onto the bandwagon in time.
So along came a weekend with up to four derbies in motion and plenty on the line. The biggest one arguably was the one they even dare to call ‘El Gran Derby’. Sevilla and Betis duked it out with the usual disregard for defending, thus granting the fans an excellent display of football with ultimately was won by the home side (3-2).
We had screamers (Franco Vazquez and Tello’s goals were excellent), we had tension, Sevilla remained strong and they managed to hold on tight to that fourth spot after Getafe stumbled this weekend.
Home coach Joaquin Caparros, who had announced days earlier that he suffered from leukemia, appeared as lively as ever in the press room after their game: “This is Sevilla and they can suck it” (‘esto es Sevilla, aquí se viene a mamar’) was the most buzzed-around sentence of the night.
On Sunday, Real Sociedad choked on the umpteenth chance of trying to reach the battle for Europe after their draw at home against Eibar (1-1). And, hours later, the Bats polished off the Derby Valenciano with ruthless efficiency. Valencia were far, far superior to Levante (3-1) and they even seemed a bit refrained from scoring even more goals in the second half.
Valencia’s turnaround might be one of the big stories of the season, currently the only ones besides Barça to have the chance of winning a worthy tournament this season. Against Villarreal last Thursday they knocked the Submarine cold in injury time (1-3) in the Europa League, so it is a given that Marcelino’s men will be in the semifinals.
Fans actually think the road to the Champions League in the 2019-2020 might be easier via winning the second European competition rather than fighting for fourth in LaLiga.
Oh, and what about Real Madrid? Zidane’s men, knocked out of every single possibility of touching domestic silverware this season, have been relegated to Monday night cannon-fodder, pushed into having to play in such an unpleasant slot after three years of avoiding it. It was the fourth and final derby of the weekend against a motivated Leganés in a stadium (Butarque) where few had conquered points.
And again Real stumbled. And again Leganés delivered (1-1). And again Karim Benzemà seemed to be the only one knowing that Real can’t allow themselves to play throwaway games. The Madrid derby left one tough outcome for Los Blancos: the six remaining games are going to be excruciatingly painful to swallow both for players and fans alike.
Maybe Zizou jumped the gun by returning too early to his former bench?