A look back at last weekend’s La Liga action
In any major European league, you sometimes get one of those weeks where all is not as it seems, and although you envisage the teams towards the top of the table earning routine victories, you get not one but two major shocks.
That was exactly the case in Spain over the past couple of days as the race for La Liga took another interesting twist, and as we enter November, it looks like the major contenders are trying their hardest to not be crowned champions at the end of the season.
Although the odd shock is good for the column inches, it is even better for the bookmakers, and with the apple cart being upset, the likes of Sportsbet will be raising a toast to some of Spain’s lesser outfits.
On paper, you would have expected both Barcelona and Real Madrid to pick up maximum points on Saturday. However, football matches are played on grass, not paper, and with that in mind, let’s have a look at the biggest talking points from the most recent round of La Liga fixtures.
Barcelona bested again
Shockwaves were sent across European football on Sunday night as Bayern Munich decided to part company with manager Niko Kovač, and if the Bavarian outfit are willing to make a sacrifice early in the campaign, then Barcelona may well be taking notes themselves.
That’s because manager Ernesto Valverde oversaw a third La Liga defeat of the season, and after seeing his side go ahead away at Levante, the assumption was that the likes of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann would go on to lead the Catalans to a routine away win.
However, Levante had other ideas, and a phenomenal turnaround in the second half saw the outfit from eastern Spain record a memorable victory and one that would have had Barcelona fans fearing the worst.
That’s because the defending champions played before their nearest title rivals, and there was the likelihood that they would all leapfrog Messi and company once the weekend’s schedule had come to an end.
Thankfully for Barcelona, results ended up going their way (more of that in a moment), and it means that they still stay top of the table. However, the pressure is mounting on Valverde and he will have to oversee victory on Saturday, as they play host to a struggling Celta Vigo side.
Boring at the Bernabéu
With Barcelona’s huge slip-up now at the forefront of the minds of Zinedine Zidane and his Real Madrid players, they knew that a win over mid-table Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabéu would subsequently see Los Blancos go top of the pile.
Unfortunately for Real Madrid, it turned out to be a dour draw in the Spanish capital and one that saw them spurn their opportunity to go top.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the hosts and especially for Eden Hazard, with the former Chelsea man believing that he had broken the deadlock in the first half. Unfortunately for him, VAR had other ideas and deemed the Belgian international to be offside.
That’s about as good as the game got, and credit must go to Real Betis as they executed their plan perfectly. The draw in Madrid means that they have picked up four points from the last six on offer and have subsequently moved clear of the relegation zone.
Zidane will undoubtedly come in for criticism after masterminding a rather limp performance on Saturday. He and his players will hope for better things when they make the visit to Eibar this weekend.
Atlético Madrid draw again
With Barcelona and Real Madrid’s slip-ups already referenced, there is another club that should be part of the title race conversation, and if it weren’t for this particular side earning so many draws, they would be sitting at the summit themselves.
That side is Atlético Madrid, and true to form, they had to make do with just another point on Saturday. However, it would be unfair to put this one in the ‘upset’ category as they had to duel with Sevilla in order to earn it.
Diego Simeone’s men have played 12 La Liga games this season and have now drawn six of them, but what is more incredible is that they have lost just once, and there is no doubting that they are a tough nut to crack.
Unfortunately for the Argentine manager, his players have scored just 12 times this season – which averages just a goal a game so far – and it is fair to say that this is not going to be a return that wins them the La Liga title anytime soon.
Álvaro Morata has been charged with the task of scoring the goals to boost Atlético’s title hopes, and although he found the net against Sevilla, it was not enough for all three points. Next up for the red and white half of Madrid is the visit of an Espanyol side who have lost five of their last six matches.
Granada go down through the gears
With Spain’s big three all failing to pick up wins and solidify their standings at the very top of La Liga, the stars then aligned for surprise outfit Granada to end week 12 at the summit. Unfortunately for them, they would also slip up in this week of relative upsets.
Diego Martínez’s men played host to Real Sociedad, and although picking up three points would have been far from easy, there is no doubting that Granada have been full of confidence as of late, and that confidence would be a key asset going into the game.
However, Real Sociedad had other ideas, and after earning a 2-1 win at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes, it is actually the San Sebastián outfit who have leapfrogged Granada and moved to third in the table.
The team coached by Imanol Alguacil are now level on points with both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Friday night will see them go top for at least 24 hours – that is if they get the better of Leganés. Could there be another upset on the cards though?
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Words: Man Ngo