This season’s La Liga campaign will not provide the sort of dramatic climax witnessed last May.
Barcelona’s title challenge has petered out in recent weeks, and they dropped points again this weekend after a goalless draw against city rivals Espanyol. The derby was an ill-tempered affair, with no less than eleven players picking up yellow cards. By contrast Real Madrid continued their winning ways, with Bernd Shuster’s men recording an impressive 2-0 win at Racing Santander. Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain sealed the win with a 90th-minute goal after Raul Gonzalez had given Real Madrid a 13th-minute lead. Barca have now slipped into third place, as Villareal beat Valladolid 2-0 to move into second place. Real Madrid are ten points clear, and only a collapse of historic proportions will deny them the championship.
In the race for 4th place, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla both failed to capitalise on Santander’s defeat. Atletico Madrid slipped to a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Real Betis, while Seville were thrashed 4-1 at home by Almeria. In another surprise result, Athletic Bilbao hammered underachieving Valencia 5-1. Highly-rated youngsters Llorente and Javi Martinez were among the goalscorers for Bilbao. Valencia, astonishingly, find themselves near the relegation places.
Two goals from Brazilian striker Ricardo Oliveira – currently on loan from Milan – helped Real Zaragoza to a 3-0 win over Recreativo. The win lifts Zaragoza just out of the relegation places, on goal difference ahead of Recreativo. Another defeat for Murcia, beaten 4-1 at home by Mallorca, means they are looking increasingly certain to join Levante in the second division next season. Levante have had something of a miniature resurgence in recent weeks – they beat Getafe 3-1 on Sunday – but will they currently prop up the table and look certain to be relegated.
By Houman Barekat