Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
The 2018/19 season in Spain commenced with the familiar sight of Barcelona and Real Madrid winning football matches and quickly ascending to the top of the league table. Even Atletico Madrid have quickly recovered from their sluggish start to move up to 3rd on Tuesday night and give the top of La Liga its usual look. However if ever there was a night that proved La Liga can be both unpredictable and exciting, it was surely Wednesday as the two giants of Spanish football sunk to humbling defeats within a few hours of each other.
Not since January 2015 had both Barca and Real lost a league game on the same day. On that occasion Barcelona were on the wrong end of a 1-0 loss to David Moyes’ Real Sociedad and the knives were out for Luis Enrique with many still claiming a front three of Neymar, Suarez and Messi wouldn’t work. Real Madrid’s defeat that day came via a 2-1 loss in Valencia and they’d suffer three more away defeats before the season was out as Carlo Ancelotti’s reign headed to a disappointing conclusion.
The Catalans would of course go on to win the treble that very season and Real Madrid have won three Champions League titles since then so we perhaps shouldn’t get too carried away by what happened on Wednesday night. However the manner of both sides’ defeats will certainly be of real cause for concern.
Bottom Club Leganes stun Barcelona
Leganés 2-1 Barcelona FT:
12′ ⚽ Coutinho
52′ ⚽ El Zhar
53′ ⚽ Oscar
The 20th-placed side before the game come from behind to beat the defending champions in top spot. 😱 pic.twitter.com/NzaCm8wAYf
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 26, 2018
The evening began in Madrid with bottom club Leganes, with just 1 point to their name from 5 matches, hosting leaders and defending champions Barcelona. It seemed as though there could only be one possible outcome and when Philippe Coutinho’s wonderful volley gave the visitors the lead in just the 12th minute, the Catalan giants must have sensed they were in for a pretty comfortable evening.
In the end, they got anything but. A spirited Leganes side continued to press Barcelona and largely negated the threat of Messi, who was partnered not by Luis Suarez but Munir in attack as Ernesto Valverde again attempted to rotate his troops. If that was a surprise call, the sight of Thomas Vermaelen at left-back was one nobody saw coming but it wasn’t until a remarkable couple of 2nd Half minutes that the home team managed to exploit Barcelona’s defensive uncertainty. First winger Nabil El Zhar got the wrong side of the big Belgian to head home Jonathan Silva’s cross. Butarque had only just quietened down from the delight and perhaps shock of seeing their team level when they had fresh reason to celebrate. The assist this time went to none other than Gerard Pique, whose weak clearance went straight to Real Madrid loanee Oscar Rodríguez, who gladly accepted the gift with a composed finish to put Leganes 2-1 up.
What will concern Ernesto Valverde and Barcelona fans as much as anything, was their lacklustre reaction to going behind. With 37 minutes still on the clock, there was plenty of time to turn things around but besides one moment when Leganes keeper Pichu Cuellar produced a brilliant double save, Barcelona looked as likely to concede again as they did find a leveller.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s side finished the game with more shots and more shots on target than their illustrious visitors with the result a huge boost to the former Alaves and Southampton boss following a slow start. It will go down as one of the most famous nights in Leganes’ history but for Barcelona it was another case of rotation not working with Munir and Vermaelen both hauled off in the Second Half. They’ve now taken just 1 point from back-to-back matches against Girona and Leganes.
Real Madrid’s woes at the Sanchez Pizjuan continue
— Siaran Bola Live (@SiaranBolaLivee) September 26, 2018
The game at Leganes concluded only ten minutes before Real Madrid kicked off their match in Seville. You can be certain that Los Blancos would have heard the result but they never looked like taking advantage of the opportunity to go three points clear at the top of La Liga at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, a ground which has become a venue they simply hate playing out.
They headed into the game having lost on 5 of their previous 6 league visits and even by Half-Time it already looked certain to become 6 defeats in 7 in front of vociferous Sevilla support. Pablo Machin’s men came into the game in good form and they were simply too quick and often just too good for a Real Madrid side that were regularly architects of their own downfall with some sloppy defending. Two goals from Andre Silva and one from Wissam Ben Yedder saw Sevilla cruise into a 3-0 lead by the interval with their forwards firing while time and time again Jesús Navas got in behind Marcelo, who had an evening to forget.
Things weren’t much better at the other end. Gareth Bale was perhaps the pick of Real’s front three but he missed a good chance early in the Second Half to grab a lifeline for his side. Luka Modric also had a goal ruled out by VAR but in truth rarely has a Real Madrid side looked so resigned to a defeat. Lopetegui’s decision to remove Modric and bring on Dani Ceballos in the 70th minute was almost an admission that the game was up with fresh legs needed for what is now a simply huge Madrid derby this weekend. Real will need to play much better in all departments if they are to avoid back-to-back defeats.
Read more – Real Madrid’s front three firing without Ronaldo
An Open Title Race?
This time last week, it was already looking like La Liga had the potential to very quickly become a two horse race. However with champions Barcelona dropping five points in the space of 4 days and Real Madrid suffering their first major setback under Lopetegui, things suddenly feel a lot more interesting.
The big winners from all this are Atletico Madrid. Their title challenge was already being written off in some quarters, following a defeat in Vigo and some very poor early performances. However Atleti have now won three on the bounce in all competitions and are just two points behind the big two in La Liga again. Victory at the Bernabeu this weekend would really be a statement of intent and it’s a game they will really fancy.
It will still be a big ask for anyone else to truly get into the title picture but the quality of Sevilla’s performance on Wednesday night and the sheer volume of goals they are scoring suggests they have a chance. Their early start to the season could eventually come back to hurt them but Machin’s reputation is growing with every passing week and he appears a great fit for Sevilla following a couple of poor appointments last term.
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