AP Photo/Alberto Saiz

The Spanish Corner: Pellegrini on the ropes as Madrid press settle scores

Garreth Nunn has a front row seat in Madrid as Marca puts the boot in to former Real boss Manuel Pellegrini.

READING MARCA, ONE would think that Manuel Pellegrini had killed someone.

The paper’s constant vilification of the quiet Chilean stems back to last year when he was the Real manager. For Marca, Pellegrini was the worst boss in the club’s history – they blame him for the humiliation against Alcorcón in the Copa Del Rey, Real’s exit in the Champions League and failure to make Kaká and Ronaldo work together.

Now he has gone, things haven’t improved much. Granted the team are still in the Champions League but still have to play Lyon to progress to the next round and have the final of the Copa Del Rey but they have fewer points than they did last year in La Liga. Kaká has failed to impress since recovering from injury but Ronaldo is playing well.

Pellegrini was never first choice of Florentino Pérez and never really had his support so when the season was over he was given the boot. He took charge of Málaga in November. But, Marca is like a dog with a bone and have refused to let bygones be bygones and try to kick  the Chilean when he is down, which has been a lot lately.

He has spent big time and still the club have failed to climb out of the relegation zone. For weeks people have been waiting for Málaga to click and move up the table but it hasn’t happened. A win against Almería looked like Málaga were finally on the way up but the 7-0 defeat to Real had Pellegrini in the press again. Before the game Mourinho had a dig claiming that if he ever left Real, he would not end up at a club like Málaga. Pellegrini refused to comment, which is typical of him.

For the Real game Pellegrini rested key players citing that Osasuna was the key game and that he really believed that the team had no chance of overcoming Real. Earlier in the year Mourinho had launched an attack on Sporting Gijon claiming that Real had no chance of winning the league when teams fielded weakened sides against rivals. Surprisingly Mourinho was very silent when a team fielded a weakened side against him.

And, so came Osasuna. Pellegrini was under pressure and Málaga needed a result. Millions had been spent and fans were growing impatient at the constant poor results. Yet, football is nothing but at times cruel and Osasuna made the most of Malaga’s owes with an injury time goal. Malaga only have themselves to blame by failing to convert their chances.

Ex-Arsenal striker Quincy was guilty a number of times of squandering chances and being too possessive with the ball. The Ghanaian showed plenty of skill and speed but was selfish and failed to pass to team mates in better positions. Pellegrini said after the game that it was a hard knock to morale. It might also be the final knock that the club’s Arab owners will accept.

Around the Grounds

1-9-1. No it’s not the number for the Spanish police but the formation that Real Zaragoza used against the Catalan giants. Barça who had Victor Valdes back between sticks struggled to break down Javier Aguirre’s men but Keita would find a way through. An uncomfortable game for Pep Guardiola, who came straight from hospital after having back surgery to sit on the bench.

Barça only allowed women in their director’s box for this game to represent the role women have played at the club. They now face a major defensive crisis when they face Arsenal in the CL. Carles Puyol has been ruled out and Pique is suspended. But Barça have been there before and came out winners.

Joy at last at the Calderon. Atleti finally gave their fans a game they deserved. A lot has been made this week about players not passing to Forlán but all was forgiven as Atleti beat Villarreal 3-1. A ‘goalazo’ from Reyes in the fourth minute set up the game. A goal from a free kick saw ex-Man Utd man Rossi put the team 1-1 at half time.

But goals from Forlán and Kun Agüero saw Atleti take all the points. Coach Quique Sanchez Flores dedicated the win to the fans and said the players were happy to give the fans a good weekend.

Wins for Almería, Levante and Sporting Gijon sees the race to avoid the drop really heat up. Levante are now five points clear with a goal from on loan striker Felipe Caicedo who has now notched up 10 goals in La Liga. Sporting are still plugging away and getting points. A 2-0 win against Getafe puts them two points off the drop zone.

A sad day for Spanish football as ex-Liverpool and current Real Betis player Miki Roque announced a break from football as he fights pelvic cancer. Messages of support poured out via Twitter and Facebook from ex footballers, fans and well-wishers. A teary Roque said that he hopes to return soon. Get well soon Miki.

For a full set of results check here

Garreth Nunn is the co founder of the website and is on Twitter under @madridatleticos.