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La Liga Week 17: Liga Rallies For Tito; Valencia, Rayo Score Big Wins Early

The scheduling Gods at the LFP gave us a full docket of games today--how better to stave off apocalypse?--and what emerged were a series of relatively benign wins. But don't tell that to Rayo Vallecano who demolished Levante 3-0. And from all of us at /soccer, we want to wish Tito Vilanova a speedy recovery.

David Ramos

Big Wins, Important Fixtures

Yes, I am categorizing this post; I'm trying a new thing this week where I spend the most time previewing/reviewing the good games, and expend less energy on the ones I don't like. We'll see how it pays off.

Rayo Vallecano 3-0 Levante

This was a hell of a game--well, really a hell of a second half--for Rayo: they demolished Levante in Vallecas, in one of the more surprising results of the year. It's less surprising that Rayo actually beat Levante--not a ridiculous result--but rather the way that Levante's defensive pressure and form (JIM's strongest suit) imploded in the second half. Ultimately, though, while Rayo was raining goals from outside the area thanks to an especially inspired performance by Nacho, Levante can take some solace in the fact that Rayo's goals weren't easy: they were all blasts from distance. So while yes, JIM and company need to look a little bit at their defense, I don't think this result is cause for making any major changes--just a closer look.

Malaga vs. Real Madrid

Saturday, 20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Madrid are really out of this title race. There's just no getting around it. In fact, almost everyone other than Barça is out of the title race. But we press on.

This game is under "important" because it seems like every Madrid game pushes the team slightly closer to the brink of catastrophe. Mourinho, with another loss, will essentially have to win the Champions League to even have a shot at staying--which it's unclear he even wants to do.

Málaga has been a really fun team to watch, too, which should make this game more interesting. And considering the fact that they were sanctioned by UEFA--well, it just makes everything more palatable.

Valladolid vs. Barcelona

Saturday, 18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Valladolid has been everything everyone expected and more this year--they play a pretty, precision game that flows a lot like Barcelona's (well, if Barcelona had a tiny payroll). This game is "important" just like the Madrid one is--we kind of know the result, because Barcelona has been so good this season: it's going to be great theatre. And with coach Vilanova just getting out of the hospital, Barcelona will be itching to score a lot.

Atlético Madrid 0-0 Celta (IN PROGRESS)

Admittedly, I'm writing this while Atleti take on Celta; but if this result holds, it will be important because it will see Atleti fall farther back off the pace, closer towards Madrid and company. It will also be remarkable because of how many times Atleti could have won but didn't--this is a phrase I haven't used about them this year very much, which seems to go against everything I have every known.

Worth Noting

Espanyol 2-0 Deportivo

With this win, Espanyol kept their skin-of-their-teeth margin outside of the drop zone; with the loss, Depor sunk farther into the hole. While it's unclear who will actually end up stuck in relegation at the end of the season, Depor is starting to look like the odds-on favorite. This game just made that clear.

Osasuna vs. Granada

Saturday, 20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Similar to the above, Osasuna and Granada are fighting for their lives right now. It's going to be very interesting to see which of them come out to play--because they both (as the teams on either side of the relegation line right now) have a lot to play for.

Valencia 4-2 Getafe

I'm noting this game--which would otherwise fall in the "as expected" category--because of how hard a time Valencia had in securing their lead. Sure, they scored a bunch of goals, but that doesn't change the fact that they allowed Getafe to climb back into the game over and over again. This is a classic Valencia way to play--heart-wrenching--and it's a bit insane that they haven't been able to get over it.

Just for wonks

Real Sociedad 2-1 Sevilla

So it's pretty cool how far Sevilla has fallen over the past few years. Every time I see them play a good game, I expect to see them roar back into contention for one of the European spots. But no. It's time I start to at least consider that maybe, just maybe, they're not that good.

Betis vs. Mallorca

Saturday, 20:00 PM CET (2:00 PM EST)

I really just wanted to include this game here to talk about how good Betis has been this season! We are half way through the Liga (more or less) and Betis is in 5th. 5th! Last year they were relegation-fodder. So are they this year's Levante? Perhaps.


Athletic Bilbao vs. Zaragoza

Saturday, 20:00 PM CET (2:00 PM EST)

Yes, it happened, for the first time in a while I just don't care about Athletic. Sad.