There's hardly any enthusiasm about Florentino Pérez remaining as Real president so he will buy popularity in the usual way - by spending oodles of cash this summer...
Atletico Madrid's Copa Del Rey win over Real on Friday wasn't just about short-term glory, says Tim Stannard, but a chance to build for better things ahead...
The Premier League is a Utopian worker's paradise in comparison with la Liga. In England, the collective good is recognised with the 20 clubs largely realising some time ago that co-operation, caring and sharing, especially in matters of the TV money carve-up, leads to a better product and shared benefits of all. It's beautiful really.
That's not exactly the case in the snake-pit of Spain, where it's not so much back-stabbing that takes place between clubs, than rolling tanks up and blowing each other to smithereens at point blank range. Indeed, such is the endless bickering and tiresome nagging that goes on at board level both internally and between each other that only just over half the clubs currently in the top flight can agree that their league is dying on its backside without major changes to funding and that the über dominance of the big two is probably a bad thing.
It's likely that the news of Málaga's ban from European competitions from next season brought about public sounds of sympathy from a number of sides in la Primera, but in private it would have been tap dancing on tabletops time, as the southern side were one of the leading challengers for the fourth Champions League spot in the division. Although to be fair, Real Madrid currently squatting in third couldn't even muster a goal against bottom-of-the-table Osasuna on Saturday with Cristiano Ronaldo suspended, so there's always the chance that double the number of parking spaces could be available quite soon in la Liga if matters worsen at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Indeed, Real Betis are just three points behind José Mourinho's less than merry men after a spectacular first half of the campaign, which sees the side as arguably the most entertaining to watch in combining the pretty passing play of Barcelona, the occasional counter-attacking stylings of Atlético Madrid and the utter unpredictability of Real Madrid. "I feel like a proud father," admitted the emotional Betis boss, Pepe Mel.
The Sevilla side are driven by the goals of Rubén Castro, who scored the side's second in Sunday's 2-0 win over Levante to make it 11 for the season (the same as Falcao in open play), a footballer who has been mentioned as a possible prospect for Spain, a recognition also for the 16 scored by the 31-year-old last year. Also doing rather well is Joel Campbell, the Costa Rica forward who is on loan from Arsenal and transforming from an enthusiastic but wayward finisher in the first months of the campaign into quite the speedy striker.
It's a truly astonishing sight in sixth place in the table with Rayo Vallecano defying the predictions of this column of a relegation battle for the side this season. Instead, the Madrid outfit have been playing a breathless all-attack style of football that has brought about four league wins in a row and the best first half to a season for the team in la Primera in the side's history. Pretty good going for a club with just three sides to the ground, unreliable floodlights, the smallest budget in la Primera and facing the current campaign without Michu.
The news has perked up considerably in Mestalla in recent weeks with Valencia starting to return to where they should be, by closing in on the top four after three wins in a row under Ernesto Valverde, who seems to have installed some discipline to the side both on and off the pitch. David Albelda possibly being handed a big stick may have the done the job, too. Levante just keep on going and are in eighth spot with 30 points, four behind Betis.
Whilst 'tis true that the title race is done and dusted with Barcelona's 3-1 win over Málaga giving the team an 18 point gap over Real Madrid and nine over Atlético, Málaga's unfortunate situation has given new life into a chase for both the Champions League and European places, in a league where the clubs take such competitions very seriously indeed. The return of Betis to the Europe's top table would be a reward for wonderful fans who continued to back the side when it went down into la Segunda, whilst the financial stimulus of a group stages run would power the poverty-stricken Rayo Vallecano for decades to come.
La Primera is more like an accomplished Irish dancer these days. A footballing Michael Flatley if you will. Whilst there's not an awful lot of movement from the neck upwards to watch, there's quite the hullaballoo of activity taking place just below if you care to look.
Round 19 Results
Athletic 1-2 Rayo Vallecano
Valladolid 3-1 Mallorca
Espanyol 1-0 Celta Vigo
Osasuna 0-0 Real Madrid
Valencia 2-0 Sevilla
Betis 2-0 Levante
Real Sociedad 1-1 Deportivo
Atlético Madrid 2-0 Zaragoza
Málaga 1-3 Barcelona
Getafe v Granada (Monday)
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter