La Liga: Atlticos away form comes home to roost
It now looks too late for coach Gregorio Manzano to turn around the fortunes of Madrids perennial underachievers and save his job.
While admitting to disastrous away form, Atltico Madrid coach Gregorio Manzano defended himself this week by reasoning at home we are playing well, just days before a 2-0 defeat at the Vicente Caldern to a struggling Real Betis side. The result has surely sealed the fate of yet another Atltico coach.
Given the boards dreaded vote of confidence earlier in the week, the remainder of his tenure was dependent on three home games in a week before the winter break. The first was a resounding success as Los Rojiblancos beat Rennes 2-0 in the Europa League.
The second saw Atlti fail to take their chances in front of goal with two dreadful misses by summer signing Falcao early on in the game, which could very well have changed the outcome. Instead, Betis managed to bide their time before two second half goals from Alejandro Pozuelo and Roque Santa Cruz sealed the win for the Andalusian side.
The final game, and surely Manzanos last, is a second-leg Copa del Rey fixture against Albacete on Wednesday, which will see the Madrid side attempting to overturn a 2-1 defeat inflicted in the first leg at the hands of the third-tier team.
Manzano in his second stint at Atltico is the clubs 48th manager in 24 years and as is the way with most coaches at Atltico, he never stood much of a chance. Poor results away from home and a spectacular falling out with Jos Antonio Reyes, after which the coach invented a string of unconvincing excuses to explain the players absence, have blighted his second spell at the club.
His side currently sit 10th in the league table, a mere four points from the relegation zone and 10 points from a Champions League place.
The Christmas hiatus will most likely also draw to a close Reyess stay in the capital and he looks set to return to Sevilla, the club where he began his professional career, for a reported 3.5 million in the January transfer window.
However, despite the changes the new year could bring, 2012 does not look much brighter for the Atlti faithful as a recent report in El Pas claimed the club owe 215 million to the taxman.
The names being bounded about as coaching replacements include Luis Aragons a fan favourite whose name was being chanted at the Caldern at the weekend former Atltico player Diego Simeone and, according to one late night football debate show, Evertons David Moyes. Whoever it may be, he will need to work fast to lift the gloom surrounding the club.
Meanwhile Cristiano Ronaldo responded to a week of media criticism for his poor showing in last weekends El Clsico by netting a hat-trick his fifth of the season to send his Real Madrid side three points clear at the top in Saturday’s 6-2 win at Sevilla. His performance, he said, was designed to “shut people up”, adding: Those who criticise me don’t know anything about football.”
However, Sevillas dismal weekend did not end with the defeat as club president Jos Mara del Nido was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for his role in a corruption case on Monday.
Madrids nearest rivals FC Barcelona spent the weekend attending to business in Japan where they coasted to the Club World Cup title in Yokohama on Sunday night, defeating Brazilian side Santos 4-0. The competition is now the 13th they have won from a possible 16 since Pep Guardiola took over. The only dampener for the Catalan side was the news that striker David Villa will be out for up to five months after breaking his left leg in Barcelona’s semi-final victory over Al Sadd.
Valencia retained third place after in-form striker Roberto Soldado notched a double in a 2-0 victory over Mlaga at the Estadio Mestalla. Los Che opened the scoring nine minutes before half-time then added another after the break to seal the win.
Osasuna scored twice in the final 15 minutes to beat Villarreal and put themselves firmly in the race to earn a European spot this season and Granada sealed their third win in five league games against a spirited Levante side with first-half goals from Guillherme Siqueira and Abel Gmez.
At El Sardinero, with the home side stranded in the relegation zone and Real Sociedad not far above it, Racing Santander and the visitors played out a disappointing goalless draw, a result that does little to help either sides prospects.
Sporting Gijn 1 2 RCD Espanyol
RCD Mallorca 1 2 Getafe CF
Athletic Bilbao 2 1 Real Zaragoza
Sevilla FC 2 6 Real Madrid
Atltico Madrid 0 2 Real Betis
Granada CF 2 1 Levante UD
Osasuna 2 1 Villarreal CF
Racing Santander 0 0 Real Sociedad
Valencia CF 2 0 Mlaga CF