It’s been a busy week in the world of La Liga. Javier Saviola finally realised that he wasn’t a required player at Real Madrid, and if he actually wanted to be able to write the word ‘footballer’ as his occupation on his arrival card whenever he nicked back to Buenos Aires for a holiday, he would have to go in search of new employers.
Florentino Perez couldn’t hold it in any longer and announced he fancied another shot at being the President of Real Madrid, and the boys from Catalunya broke two trophy droughts –they scored their first Copa Del Rey in 11 years and their first trophy of any kind in three.
The Camp Nou trophy cabinet could well be two trophies fuller by Sunday evening, and in all likelihood, it will be. Barca only need one point from their trip to Mallorca on Sunday, and that’s only if Real Madrid dispose of Villarreal on Saturday night at El Madrigal. If Los Merengues draw or get battered again like they did last week at the hands of Valencia, then Pep Guardiola could give the likes of Martin Caceres and Alexander Hleb a game, safe in the knowledge that however badly they play, the title is already safely in their keeping.
Real Madrid must defeat Villarreal to keep the title race alive. The good news is, they pistol whipped the Yellow Submarine, 5-0, on their home turf last season, a full 72 rounds ago now. Roysten Drenthe started that day, but the bad news is, things have changed somewhat, for both him and Real since then.
The last fortnight in particular has seen the whippers become the whipees. Saint Iker’s back is surely killing him after having to retrieve the ball from his net nine times in the last two games; Sergio Ramos has given up pretending to give a crap whatsoever; Gabi Heinze has shown that he can, in fact, get any worse; and the coach has given up the illusion that his team is anywhere near as good as Pep’s. In short, Real are done – stick a fork in them.
Villarreal, on the other hand, will be feeling pretty good about themselves after spoiling Barca’s planned title party last weekend, and a win on Saturday night will do them a world of good in their fight with Atletico Madrid and Valencia for the last Champions League spot.
I’m now going to make a bold prediction – there will be more Diego Forlan heroics this Sunday when Atletico host Valencia at the Vicente Calderon. I’m talking real heroics here, not simply the footballing kind. Something along the lines of Diego rushing into the crowd to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on an 80 year old Atleti fan who began choking on the sunflower seeds he was munching, after witnessing the striker smash in his fifth goal, a 200 yard screamer, in the 94th minute to give his side a 5-4 victory.
If the blonde haired Uruguayan wasn’t enough of a worry, the visitors won’t have midfield mule Carlos Marchena or midfield maestro David Silva available due to suspension. They will have David Villa though, and he must be giddy with excitement at the thought of facing Atletico’s ‘defense’.
It’s a massive round for the five teams from Andalusia, with all of them involved in potentially fate determining encounters. Sevilla FC are on the road in Pamplona to tackle an Osasuna team who are seemingly hell bent on self destruction. Two losses in as many weeks to fellow strugglers Getafe and Recreativo de Huelvo as seen Jose Camacho’s team drop to within touching distance of the drop zone. A win for the visitors may not guarantee Manolo Jimenez that he’ll have a job at the club next season, but it will just about guarantee them a third spot finish.
The other team from Seville, Real Betis, were, how can I put this, wretched – no wait, deplorable- no wait, I’ve got it, pitiful – they were pitiful against an Athletic Bilbao reserve team last week at San Mames. Perhaps the most underrated team in La Liga, Almeria, visits the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera this weekend in a match that Betis simply must win to guarantee their survival.
In another match that promises to be intriguing if not entertaining, Numancia host Recreativo de Huelva on Sunday as both sides attempt to avoid relegation. A draw would be useless, but a win, for either team, would give them a shot at playing with the big boys next season. The other team in big big trouble, Sporting de Gijon, will host Europe chasers Malaga. A win for Sporting could see them hop out of the drop zone, a loss would see them pretty much condemned to return to whence they came – La Segunda.
Elsewhere, the Houdini act of Espanyol will be all but completed if they can defeat an Athletic Bilbao side who were slaughtered by Barcelona a couple of days ago, and have nothing to play for as far the league is concerned. If Deportivo la Coruna can overcome a resurgent Getafe side they’ll still be in with a crazy shot at making the Champions League, and as for Racing Santander versus Valladolid…who cares?