Widely regarded as the second club of their city, Villarreal, a Valencia suburb, and Espanyol of Barcelona stole headlines in Spain this weekend by handing comprehensive defeats to FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively. Villarreal routed Barcelona, 3-1, in the first half at El Madrigal and then held on to win by the same score and with relative comfort. Espanyol, meanwhile, often accused of not playing its best against Real Madrid, beat the Spanish champion, 2-, at home, but the scoreline flatters Real, which produced few meaningful chances after falling behind, 2-0, early in the second half.
Villarreal, The Guardian's Sid Lowe points out, has been resurgent since that awful 5-0 home drubbing from Real. The club is now second in the La Liga table -- a triumph for both Manuel Pellegrini, Villarreal's coach, and President Fernando Roig. The players are gelling incredibly well, making the high profile of absence of Juan Roman Riquelme a non-factor, despite his great form for Argentina. We've heard definitively now that Riquelme won't play again for Villarreal, but it doesn't much matter, says Lowe, not when the likes of Marcos Senna, Robert Pires, Cani and Giuseppe Rossi are combining so well.
Espanyol, meanwhile, is making a case to become this season's FC Sevilla. The Catalans are in awfully good form recently, winning three in a row to climb to fourth place in the league table. ESPN's Phil Ball delves into the team's lineup, revealing that many of the club's best players, including Raul Tamudo, scorer of that sensational game-winning goal, were rejects from Barcelona and Real.