La Liga Review: Normal Service Resumed?

La Liga Review: Normal Service Resumed?
Alex Wrigley
Alex Wrigley
December 3, 2018
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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.

It has been an extraordinary opening to the Spanish football season but there was at least a sense of normality resuming this weekend. Barcelona and Real Madrid were both relatively comfortable home winners as the teams around them all slipped up. While Alaves remain 4th and Sevilla 2nd, more of a normal order is now threatening to take shape as we head towards the middle part of the season.

In a campaign filled with shocks, there were relatively few major talking points this weekend beyond the odd contentious VAR call. However there were still surprise scorelines, not least at the Estadio Municipal José Zorrilla, where the division’s two lowest scoring teams played out the highest scoring match of the weekend, with Leganes beating Valladolid 4-2.

Barca & Real Madrid claim Solid Home Wins

Barcelona and Real Madrid both had home games this weekend but both against sides that finished in the top five last season so the potential certainly existed for fresh upsets. However Valencia and Villarreal are having disappointing campaigns and despite the odd moment of promise, neither seriously threatened to cause a shock.

Valencia finished just one place below Real Madrid last term and had a decent recent record against them but things never really looked like going there way from the moment Daniel Wass diverted the ball into his own goal in the 8th minute. That settled Los Blancos into a much more composed performance than the one they put in at Eibar a week ago. They largely bossed things in midfield with Valencia’s two central midfielders outnumbered and their wide players struggling to make much impact with Goncalo Guedes disappointing again. Marcelino’s men had their chances in the Second Half with Santi Mina spurning the best of them but Real were decent value for a victory sealed by Lucas Vazquez’s 83rd minute goal.

Despite that, there is still plenty for Santi Solari to stew over. Gareth Bale was again ineffective and left the pitch to jeers just past the hour-mark for the equally out of sorts Marco Asensio. Then there is Isco, who already appears to have had a pretty major bust-up with Solari. The Spaniard is a Ballon D’Or nominee and managed to at least get 10 minutes under his belt in the latter stages against Valencia having been left out of the squad for Real Madrid’s game in Rome in midweek.

Ernesto Valverde will probably be sleeping a little easier. It was far from a vintage Barcelona display in their 2-0 win against Villarreal with the Yellow Submarine enjoying much of the ball and the territory in the 2nd Half but rarely threatening the goal. Much like the game at the Bernabeu, the sources of goals were not predictable. Gerard Pique opened the scoring for the Catalans while the win was sealed by 20 year old midfielder Carles Alena. The highly rated youngster coolly finished having been released by Messi on 83 minutes, his first goal in the Spanish top flight.

Atleti frustrated on the Road again

With Barcelona and Real Madrid back to winning ways, the sense that Atleti may have already blown their chance to put themselves into a strong position in the title race was underlined by another failure to win away. Their 1-1 draw at Girona, who they are yet to beat in 3 attempts in La Liga, leaves them with a record of just 1 win from 7 away league matches this season. That already equates to 13 dropped points on the road, a long way short of where it needs to be.

The latest failure came against an in-form Girona side who continued their impressive march up the table. The Catalans took the lead via a controversial VAR-awarded penalty courtesy of Cristhian Stuani. The Uruguayan is topping the scoring charts with 11 goals in La Liga, two more than Leo Messi or compatriot Luis Suarez and one more than Celta’s Iago Aspas. Girona were dreaming of all three points as they led heading into the final ten minutes, but in the end had to settle for a point that extended their unbeaten run to 7 matches.

The leveller came in the 82nd minute and only after some more sublime goalkeeping. Girona keeper Bono is having a fine season but his beautiful day was ruined by what appeared to be Diego Costa’s leveller but was later awarded as a Ramalho own goal. Atleti pressed for a winner late on but couldn’t find it and there’s a limit to how much longer their away day blues can continue if they are going to stay in the title race.

Surprise Packages starting to Fall Back

It wasn’t a good weekend for the small teams threatening to break up La Liga’s usual pecking order. Real Valladolid’s worrying turn of form continued as they were beaten 4-2 at home by struggling Leganes. The new boys have slipped from the top six to the bottom six in a matter of weeks and are now 5 without a win in La Liga, having won 4 on the bounce prior to that. They would still have settled for this position after 14 games but suddenly they are looking over their shoulder again and wondering where their next win is coming from.

Things aren’t quite as bad for Espanyol, who remain in the top six, but it’s now three straight defeats for Rubi’s men after a convincing 3-0 defeat at Getafe. That was the second weekend in a row they’ve conceded three goals and suddenly gaps are appearing at the back and the likes of Mario Hermoso are making mistakes that simply weren’t occurring even a month back. Espanyol now head into the Barcelona derby next weekend on a real downer and they’ll do well to get anything from that match.

Sevilla and Alaves meanwhile both remain in the top four after playing out a 1-1 draw in the Basque Country on Sunday evening. Sevilla missed the chance to stay top and have been below par in recent games with fatigue starting to kick in perhaps due to their incredibly busy schedule. It’s just one win in 5 for Alaves and although they may feel they should have held on for the win on Sunday, in truth they lack the quality needed to maintain their top four position for much longer.

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