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...
Málaga boss Manuel Pellegrini saw off the first challenge of the season by Christmas - outlasting fellow Primera coaches Mauricio Pochettino and Mauricio Pellgrino to ensure that his name was no longer constantly being confused by your correspondent. The second was to keep his players' peckers up after seeing footballers of the quality of Santi Cazorla leave over the summer whilst wages went unpaid. The third was to maintain the side's league form whilst handling a debut appearance in the Champions League with a squad thinner than Pep Guardiola at the end of his Barça reign. All these delicate situations have been handled extremely well by the Chilean coach whose team is still in a decent position to qualify for next season's Champions League, should UEFA rescind the ban currently in place for financial naughtiness.
Rating - 8/10
The start of the season which produced five matches unbeaten and three victories looked like being a continuation of the team's previous plucky campaign, when Mallorca surprised pretty much everyone in Spain by finishing in eighth under Michael Keaton look-a-like Joaquín Caparrós. But then everything went very pear-shaped indeed when injuries and a horrendous drop in confidence saw Mallorca losing nine games from eleven (the other two being draws, so hardly reason for celebration in the Balearics). The veteran coach has remained positive throughout this slump, though, but it may take a bit of transfer trickery in the winter window to get Mallorca out of trouble. Giovani dos Santos pulling his finger out too, might help things along as well.
Rating - 4/10
The Pamplona club is the Spanish equivalent of the rainy Wednesday night in Stoke and so is badly needed in la Primera to balance out those sticky summer evenings in Seville. However, Osasuna's survival prospects look as bleak as the surroundings of their stadium. This is largely down to money. Osasuna have never had a huge amount of it, but always enough to keep the odd decent player who can make a difference. That as well a certain brutal physicality and direct nature to the side's play. Oh, and the supporters in the stands who are non-discriminatory and simply loath everyone who comes as a visiting fan, no matter their place of origin. None of this will keep Osasuna up this season, though. Tears will be shed.
Rating - 2/10
Rayo Vallecano (6th)
It's beyond sense and logic to see Rayo Vallecano striding about up in the European places, above the likes of Valencia and Sevilla at the halfway stage of the campaign. After all, the Madrid side has no money, has matches scheduled at the most inconvenient times possible for supporters, floodlights that fail and also lost players like Michu over the summer. Rayo should be in the relegation zone but a three man defence, all out attacking approach and inspired forward play from Piti and Leo Baptistao sees Rayo having their finest first of half of a season in la Primera in the team's history. If it wasn't potentially illegal, the entire squad and manager, Paco Jémez, should be made into statues, Han Solo-style, if Rayo keep this up for another 19 games.
Rating - 9/10
Real Madrid (3rd)
Aside from being 18 points behind Barcelona and seven short of Atlético Madrid, falling apart against sides such as Getafe, Espanyol and Osasuna, being calamitous at defending set-pieces, having their coach picking arguments with players, referees, the media, Madrid's youth team coach and even the supporters it's been a fine first half of the season for Real Madrid.
Rating - 2/10 (that's for Cristiano Ronaldo's performances which have been excellent as ever)
Real Sociedad (9th)
A curious start for la Real who sometimes look as if they are going to move into contention for the European places, but never quite have the porridge in the tank to reach them. It's a bit like walking across a bar to buy a hot stranger a drink, but veering off to the toilet at the last moment instead. Nevertheless, a top ten finish would be just fine for the side from San Sebastian whose medium term strategy is hanging onto a core of talented, young, home-grown players whilst welding on imports such as former Arsenal striker, Carlos Vela, who has been doing very well indeed on Spanish shores.
Rating - 6/10
Dreadful stuff from the Andalusian side. Truly dreadful. Really, really dreadful. It would take an age to discuss where it has all gone wrong for Sevilla of late, but a whole bunch of managers have tried and failed to stop the slide of a team where the real problems lie off the field rather than on it. Sevilla were able to dominate Betis, Real Madrid and Barcelona in matches this season when the players could be bothered, but have somehow contrived to win just three matches from 14. Unai Emery is the latest coach to try and reboot the southerners, having taken over midweek, but the former Valencia boss has quite the job on his hands.
Rating - 3/10
A few weeks ago and Valencia would have been in the minus ratings, considering where the club should have been and where they were. And that was light years from the Champions League places which is the minimum requirement for any boss at the Mestalla. Mauricio Pellegrino was some way off that mark, in the Argentinean's first major managerial gig and has recently been replaced by Ernesto Valverde who has reorganised the east coast side and administered an enormous kick up the bum which was largely what was required. Valencia are back in pole position to grab the fourth Champions League position.
Rating - 5/10
They are the perfectly behaved child of three in terms of the promoted sides from last season and thus go largely unnoticed. Never been in trouble, never caused any bother, and never really seemed to have looked out of depth in la Primera which was the suspicion of what would happen with this correspondent when the season began. Heck, even Manucho is finally knocking in the goals after promising 40 in his opening campaign nearly four years ago. Valladolid boss, Miroslav Djukic, is definitely one to watch.
Rating - 8/10
A fun side and wholly unpredictable this season, with Zaragoza drawing just the single match from 19. Manolo Jiménez looks like steadying the ship, though, after quite the escape from relegation although Zaragoza are alarmingly reliant on the goals of Helder Postiga, who can be alarmingly unreliable.
Rating - 6/10
Part One is here.