The clouds seem to have recently lifted over the whole of Barcelona, not just the part that contains the Camp Nou. Espanyol's eye-catching 1-5 win away at Celta de Vigo was their second win in succession, the strugglers having defeated high-flying Valencia in the snow last week.
Whilst their more glitzy neighbours made it seven wins in a row, beating Mallorca 3-2 and moving to within a point of third-placed Deportivo, Espanyol were slaughtering poor Celta and beginning to see the quivering tails of their fellow strugglers, now not so far out of reach. A couple of months ago the team seemed dead and buried, along with newly-promoted Murcia, but it is now only the latter team that seems to be attracting the attention of the undertakers.
It's not entirely clear what has caused this turnaround in fortune, if that is indeed what it is. Luis Fernández, still sucking on his lollipop, has so far managed to stay out of the headlines - which represents quite an achievement for him. He was even saying nice things about his team when they were losing week in week out, and the humane approach seems to be paying off at last.
Then again, Fernández' strength as a manager has always been his ability to nurture groups of players who will then show him fierce and committed loyalty. Those who fail to see the point, like Ronaldinho at PSG, soon get frozen out, but if you're part of the in-crowd it doesn't matter.
At Athletic Bilbao, Fernández understood to perfection the special nature of the institution, moulding himself to the culture with perfection, despite his Franco-Andalucian roots. They loved him there, particularly valuing his sharp wit and utter dismissal of supposedly superior opponents, like Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Bilbao's relationship with neighbours Real Sociedad sunk to an all-time low during his provocative spell there, and his move to Espanyol this season was seen as a potential firecracker, given his stormy relationship with Barça. Pep Guardiola was once so incensed by Fernández' alleged lack of respect for the Catalan cause that he suggested that he be banned from the league. 'People like him shouldn't be allowed to manage in this country' he raged. 'He's a disgrace'.
Times seem to have changed, and Fernández has returned from France a mellower character. He also has two world-class players in his team who will only perform if they feel that they are appreciated. These two players, Ivan de la Peña and Raúl Tamudo, would grace any stage - but simple twists of fate appear to have kept them in the wings playing to smaller audiences than their talents deserve.
De la Peña has featured in this column before - as the mother of all enigmas, but an enigma who would seem to be sorting himself out. It only takes a manager to express confidence in him, and the player will do the rest. That he is outrageously gifted is no secret to anyone who was around in the mid' nineties, when Johan Cruyff first unleashed him onto the paying public. But a succession of managers, Cruyff included, always lost faith in him, with the inevitable result that the player lost faith in himself.
Tamudo's is a different story. He's the other Raúl, only he does not belong to that exclusive club in the Spanish league who have earned the right to print their Christian names on the back of their shirts. Barcelona-born, he made his debut for Espanyol in 1997, and excluding brief spells at Alavés and Lleida he has remained faithful to his original employers.
Two years ago, in the pre-Abramovich era, Claudio Ranieri came sniffing around, but due to Hasselbaink's refusal to budge nothing ever came of the interest. Sunderland fancied him too, but couldn't raise the cash. Since Ranieri had spent a few years in La Liga and had tried to sign him for Valencia, it was no surprise that he pursued his interest further. It was more significant that Sunderland liked him though, since he is a Kevin Phillips sort of forward, only better.
Tamudo is the sort of player who hangs around for several seasons on the fringe of things, not for lack of talent but more for lack of attention. It may be that Espanyol are unfashionable for various reasons - the sand in the vaseline of the Catalan cause and a team without a real home since their old Sarrià stadium bit the dust, forcing them to play in the echoing spaces of the cavernous Estadi Olimpic.
But Tamudo has always scored goals for them at a consistent rate in an inconsistent team.
He has a measly four caps for his country, the latest picked up during the recent friendly against Peru. In the national team pecking order he comes behind Morientes, Torres, Tristan and Raúl, but with the noble exception of the latter he is a more complete player than any of the others.
That manager Iñaki Saez is contemplating including Mista and Salva in the squad seems absurd when Tamudo is there, waiting to be recognised. Maybe it's because he's a bit on the small side, but he's exceptionally quick and intelligent, links well with the midfield, and has a wide repertoire of goals - long shots, headers, close-range pounces - you name it, he can do it.
His opening goal that knocked the stuffing out of Celta this weekend was a classic example of his brilliance. As Celta's Sergio prepared to clear close to the byeline, Tamudo robbed him, left him for dead then hared off for goal, suddenly blasting a shot into the roof of the net from an almost impossible angle with the confidence of a player who trusts in his own ability.
He's class. Sunderland's loss was Espanyol's gain. If he doesn't go to Portugal in summer I'll personally lead the protest to the FEF headquarters.
A more senior Spanish player who has enjoyed more general acknowledgements of his ability is Luis Enrique, once of Real Madrid but now in his eighth season for Barça. Once described as the most despised man in Madrid, Luis Enrique has nevertheless inspired more plaudits than insults in his 15-year career in La Liga, a career that would seem to be now entering its twilight phase.
He scored the second goal against Mallorca this weekend and made a big contribution to his team's amazing run. Not only this, but he was named by Pele in London as one of the three greatest Spanish players of all time, alongside Emilio Butragueño and Raúl.
Of course, the ceremony in general and Pele in particular have come in for inevitable stick, some of it no doubt deserved. It was surely not Pele himself who made up the list of the greatest 125, and he should therefore be forgiven for the omissions, correct though the choices of Raúl and Butragueño were. Luis Enrique has done his bit over the years but the choice smacked of politics more than ability - to even up the Barcelona presence just a little bit.
But Luis Enrique is not even a Catalan, and certainly not in the same class as Pep Guardiola, now enjoying his pre-retirement in Qatar but surely their greatest in recent times. It would have been more sensible to have chosen Luis Suárez to even up the votes, the player who most observers recognise as the greatest Spanish player ever. He played for Barça, but was actually a Gallego by birth. No matter.
They should have included the 1930's goalie Ricardo Zamora too, since by all accounts he was the greatest to have ever pulled on the cloth cap.
Voting for Luis Enrique reminds me of those '100 Greatest Albums' polls that the music magazine 'Q' has done from time to time. The mists of time obscure the greatness that once walked the Earth, with the understandable but rather sad choices of the youngish generation the result of the whole futile exercise.
'OK Computer' the best album of all time? Well it's pretty good, but with the wisdom of senility I could name you a hundred better. Sorry Luis Enrique, but there were quite a few Bob Dylans around before you appeared on the scene.