A cautious start in the midweek cup ties, with all three matches on Tuesday evening ending in draws. No doubt the surprise result of the day though was a 0-0 draw between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao in the Nou Camp, the first time that the Catalans have failed to score since their defeat against Hércules in early December. Both coaches put out strong sides, Guardiola just leaving Valdés, Messi and Villa on the bench and Caparrós only missing the injured Llorente. Bilbao's well organised defence limited the locals in the first half to a couple of long shots from Bojan and Iniesta which Iraizoz dealt with comfortably, and Gurpegui replied with a header just over the top following a corner. After the restart Guardiola resorted to Messi and then Villa, but the only real chances fell to Xavi and Piqué who both shot wide from close to goal. Everything will now be decided at San Mamés at the start of next month.
A 0-0 draw as well in the local derby between Valencia and Villarreal, although the Ches will be ruing the fact that they didn't convert any of the many chances. Unai Emery lined up with a five man defence, but even so they did most of the attacking, Pablo Hernández in particular putting two or three chances wide in the first half. The locals felt they should have had a penalty a few minutes before the break when the ball hit Bruno on the arm, and Mata volleyed a shot against the upright soon after the restart. Ricardo Costa and Mata failed to find the target after that, but the visitors could have snatched a win as well after Gonzalo headed a free kick just wide and Nilmar got through only to be thwarted by Guaita.
A couple of goals at least in the match between second division Córdoba and first division Deportivo, the match ending 1-1 on a rainy night in Andalusia. The Galicians started well, Riki heading wide before winning himself a penalty off keeper Alberto which Riki himself converted. Juan Rodríguez went close a couple of times either side of half time, but with just over twenty minute to go Manu could only punch out Sesma's free kick, and Pepe Díaz was on hand to pick up the rebound and score. By now the pitch was turning in to a paddling pool, but even so Adrián got free only to shoot wide, and Sesma crashed a late shot against the bar at the other end after Pepe Díaz put him through. (21.12.10)
Any doubts about Real Madrid's recent form were dissipated after they hammered Levante 8-0 on Wednesday evening. Within ten minutes Mourinho's side were already two up, Benzema winning the ball in midfield and running on to beat Munúa, and Özil picking up Cristiano Ronaldo's pass before shooting low past the keeper. Benzema and Di María went close before the French striker held off Cerra to score his second and then set up Ronaldo for his team's fourth on the stroke of half time. And in a four minute period midway through the second half Benzema and Ronaldo completed hat-tricks, Di María passing in for both to score before Benzema and Ronaldo combined for the seventh. With a few minutes to go Mourinho brought on Alvaro Morata for his debut in the Beranbeu, and although the youth international striker couldn't beat Munúa after a good run, Pedro León banged home the rebound. Madrid had their reply to the eight Barcelona scored against Almería, and their holiday break will be all the more relaxed for it.
It was a night for goals though, with eight as well in the Sánchez Pizjuán stadium as Sevilla came from behind twice to beat neighbours Málaga 5-3. Malagueño headed off the line from Luis Fabiano before Alfaro put the hosts ahead from Escudé's pass in the tenth minute, but two assists from Quincy within the next quarter of an hour allowed Rondón to turn the scoreline around. Negredo headed an equaliser from Romaric's cross, but by half time the visitors were in front again after Rondón returned the favour to Quincy. However two goals from Romaric after the restart, the first a low shot and the second a header from a Cáceres cross, gave Sevilla the lead, and with eight minutes to go Diego Capel intercepted a poor pass from Rubén to Malagueño to score his side's fifth. After six defeats and a draw, Sevilla had finally won a game.
There were another seven goals in Almería as well, where the locals ran out 4-3 winners over Mallorca in the end. Ulloa netted a hat-trick for the locals, the first from the penalty spot in the sixth minute after the ball hit Joao Víctor on the hand. De Guzmán levelled the scores with an impressive volley, but Ulloa looped a header over Lux to restore the lead with just under half an hour on the clock. Víctor Casadesus could have equalised again had Esteban not saved his penalty kick after Carlos García handled in the area, but the forward did beat the keeper just before half time after connecting with Nsue's pass. Kalu Uche headed the home team back in front from Ulloa's assist midway through the second half, and after Víctor rattled the bar, Ulloa turned on Crusat's cross to make it four. That seemed to have given Almería a good cushion for the second leg until Webó ran through on a quick counter-attack to peg the gap back to one goal.
A penalty by Simao in his last match before moving on to Besiktas gave Atlético Madrid a 1-0 victory over Espanyol. The heavy rain made the pitch awkward, and Forlán limped off with a twisted ankle early on. And with just over half an hour on the clock Jordi Amat blocked a shot from Reyes with his arm, referee Fernández Borbolán pointing to the spot even though the defender was slightly outside of the penalty area at the time. Simao gratefully tucked away the kick, but with half time coming up another controversial decision left the locals with ten men, Reyes sent off for retaliating after Dátolo had fouled him and then kicked the ball at him while he was on the ground. Dátolo was only booked though, and with numbers in his side's favour Osvaldo brought the save of the night out of De Gea. However midway through the second half an active Agüero forced a second yellow card for Víctor Ruíz, and although Osvaldo went close, the scoreline remained unchanged to the final whistle.
There was even heavier rain in Sevilla though, where second division leaders Betis were beaten 1-2 by Getafe. Michel's side dominated the first half, Casto having to make a couple of saves and Pedro Ríos heading over before Miku opened the scoring after Marcano headed on a corner. And with ten minutes to go to the break Ríos picked up a short pass from Gavilán to beat the keeper from outside of the area and make it two. The Andalusians came back after the restart though, Jorge Molina shooting in to the side netting and Isidoro heading just over the top following a corner. And with three minutes to go Betis got their reward, Molina converting a penalty after Miguel Torres brought down youngster Ezequiel in the area. Getafe must now be favourites to make it through to the quarter finals, but having knocked out Zaragoza in the previous round, Pepe Mel's team must not be written off. (22.12.10)