This weekend may well be remembered by Barça fans as a defining moment in their bid for a third successive title.
But for some of the clubs at the bottom, it might well go down as the start of their salvation, with Hercules, Sporting, Racing and Deportivo all getting big wins.
Madrid’s shock defeat has helped give Barça an eight point lead at the top, but it also lifted Sporting up to 13th, on 35 points -six points clear of the drop zone, and marked just their second away win of the campaign. Hercules are still in the bottom three, despite their win in Donosti, but Deportivo are just a point behind Sporting and Racing are now 11th on 36 points after their win at Espanyol.
“Title is almost impossible now”
If Madrid were the big losers on Saturday–“the league is now very difficult, almost impossible” (Iker Casillas)- Sporting were one of the winners, with their manager Manolo Preciado telling reporters: “we’ll be telling our grandchildren about this”. The situation is so tight at the foot of the table that the result had a special importance for Sporting, who face seven of the bottom 10 clubs in their last eight games of the season.
Sporting are 13th ,level on 35 points with Osasuna, who lost 2-3 to Atletico Madrid, and Real Sociedad, who were beaten 1-3 at home by Hercules. Diego Costa scored all three for Atletico, who on 42 points are closing in on the seventh place currently held by Espanyol. Real’s defeat means they’ve lost five of their last six and with a run-in that includes games against Barça, Bilbao, Valencia and Seville, they now find themselves mired in the relegation mix.
Djukic marks debut with victory
Hercules’ ne w manager Djukic celebrated his arrival with only the second win on the road for his new team, with Drenthe, who Djukic called “extraordinary” getting two goals. Unfortunately, Hercules are still in the bottom three, third from bottom on 29 points, level with Malaga who they visit at the end of the month.
Malaga themselves missed the chance to climb out of the relegation zone when they went down 3-1 at Llevante, for whom Stuani got two goals. Luis Garcia’s team continue their remarkable second half to the season, with just one defeat in their last 10 games, and with 38 points they are now just five off the European spots.
Valeron rolls back the years
Juan Carlos Valeron rolled back the years to help guide Deportivo to an important 2-1 win over Mallorca. Coming on at half time when his team were 0-1 down, Valeron turned the game around, setting up the equaliser for Xisco with a lovely pass. That win moves Lotina’s team to 16th, four points above Hercules and level with Getafe who continued their slump with a 2-4 thrashing at the hands of Valencia and their ex-striker Soldado who got all four goals for Emery’s team.
Getafe have just three home games left and with visits to Real Madrid and Villarreal coming up, next week’s trip to Zaragoza could be a defining moment. Zaragoza were one of the other big losers of the weekend, going down 3-1 at Seville and now sitting just a point above the drop zone. Almeria are the new bottom team, three points adrift of Hercules and Malaga after being soundly beaten 1-3 on Monday night by Bilbao.
Bilbao up to fifth
Bilbao’s win, with goals from Muniain, Toquero and Orbaiz, takes them up to fifth, nine points behind Villarreal and level on points with Seville, who could thank second half penalties from Kanoute and Negredo for their win over Zaragoza. Espanyol slip down to seventh, on 42 points, following their 1-2 defeat to Racing. Despite a return for their leading scorer Osvaldo, who opened the scoring with a first half penalty, Espanyol’s defensive frailties were again exposed with ex-Barca man Giovanni Dos Santos getting Racing’s winner as the hosts went down to their fourth defeat in five games.