It was another action-packed weekend of football in Spain’s top flight. With all but one of the weekend’s fixtures resulting in clean sheets, it was clearly a good Gameweek for defenders.
The most exciting fixture pitted Valencia at home against Europa League specialists Sevilla. Sevilla have been struggling in the Champions League this season and they managed to extend this poor form into La Liga, eventually capitulating to a 4-0 loss to former Champions League finalists Valencia.
Colin Millar looks back over the weekend’s action, picking out five Talking Points from the Spanish top division.
1 Valencia are back
Plenty doubted whether new coach Marcelino would be able to replicate his success at Villarreal at neighbouring Valencia – Spain’s biggest underachievers who had finished 12th in each of the last two seasons. Saturday’s 4-0 demolition of Sevilla was the latest in a growing list of stunning performances and results for Los Che.
After nine games they are yet to taste defeat, winning six times. Two of the three draws came against Real Madrid and Atletico. In fact, they’ve already played seven of the current top 11 in La Liga. To put this into context, they are behind only Barcelona who have played seven of the current bottom eight sides in their opening nine ties.
Whilst nobody yet believes they will register their first top-three finish since 2012, their current form is one of title challengers and they have hit the ground running. With a more forgiving run of fixtures to come, they will be confident of consolidating their position as strong top four contenders this season.
2 Sevilla's problems are stacking up
As comprehensive as Los Che were at the Mestalla on Saturday, their Andalucian opponents were wretched. Eduardo Berizzo’s men made an unspectacular start to the campaign, grinding out results without fluid performances to match with six wins and two draws from their opening nine outings across La Liga and the Champions League.
However, the rails have come off in spectacular fashion all in the space of seven days. A 1-0 defeat at out-of-form Athletic Club may only have been of little concern, but the appalling 5-1 drubbing at Spartak Moscow three days later was one of the club’s worst in recent years.
For the first time in over two years they are now behind eternal city rivals Real Betis, albeit only on goal difference. Worryingly, though, Saturday’s clash was their first to date against a top half opponent. Berizzo’s honeymoon period is over and he finds himself in desperate need of a big result.
3 La Liga needs technology
Barcelona’s opening goal against basement club Malaga arrived in only the second minute but it clearly should not have counted. Lucas Digne’s cross was converted by Gerard Deulofeu but only after the ball had travelled behind the line.
However, despite the justified protests from the visitors, the goal stood thanks to a lack of video technology available to officials. Last season, Barcelona were on the receiving end of similar misfortune when they netted an equalising goal at Betis which was - erroneously it turns out - deemed not to have crossed the line.
The main reason for the delay in any sort of technology, goal-line or otherwise, is largely due to an ongoing dispute between La Liga and the Spanish FA. Relations are tense and agreements are rarely found between these two organisations. Until they are, though, plenty more controversy is sure to follow.
4 Leganes' case for the defence
Last season, Leganes survived their first ever season in the top flight. But with only 35 points and ranked 17th, they were somewhat fortunate there were three sides even less equipped for that level than they were. Their survival was founded on the joint strongest defence in the bottom half of the table: at the other end they managed only 36 goals – less than one a game.
This season, they are on course for a similar trajectory in terms of goals but not in points. They have scored only eight goals in nine league fixtures but are incredibly up to fifth in the standings after Sunday’s 1-0 win over Athletic Club. This was their fifth clean sheet in a row and Asier Garitano’s men now have seven in nine league games – more than any other side in the division.
Their next seven games includes clashes with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal and Celta Vigo but for now Los Pepineros (The Cucumber Growers) are enjoying their loftiest ever league position.
5 Atleti’s strength on the road
Having failed to win any of their last four games across all competitions, Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 win at Celta Vigo on Sunday was greatly welcomed by the club. It also continued Diego Simeone’s side’s incredible spell of form on their travels over the past twelve months.
They may have changed home from the Vicente Calderon to the Wanda Metropolitano but Los Rojiblancos have been a formidable presence away from those stadiums too. They are undefeated in their last 20 domestic matches on the road – 17 in La Liga, three in the Copa Del Rey.
Their last defeat came in December 2016 against Villarreal and, with six of their nine league matches to date coming away from home, if they can make the Wanda a fortress, they will once again be strong contenders both domestically and in Europe.
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