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Monday November 21 2016
What we learned from La Liga Week 12

La Liga returned with a bang following the international break, with twists and turns at every corner. David Peters discusses the week’s main talking points.

1. Atleti are out of balance

Not much is going right for Diego Simeone right now, with his Atletico Madrid side now nine points off top spot after a crushing 3-0 derby defeat to Real Madrid. He is currently struggling to squeeze his attacking talents of Antoine Griezmann, Kevin Gameiro and Yannick Carrasco into the line-up, with Koke having to be repositioned centrally now that Carrasco seems to have made the left-midfield spot his own. That is having a knock-on effect on Gabi’s ability to assist Juanfran and Saul Niguez on the right-hand side of midfield, while Carrasco leaves Filipe Luis more exposed at left-back than Koke did before him. This is the problem of having so many good creative players, but it is proving a difficult one to solve.

2. Ronaldo deserves the plaudits, but not because of his goals

After a slow start to the season, Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored two hat-tricks in three La Liga games. That will earn him the headlines, but the truly impressive aspect of his Saturday evening performance in the Madrid derby was the way in which he helped out his injury-plagued midfield. By offering a reliable out-ball, the Real Madrid star was always an option for his midfield colleagues to turn to, while he also tracked back to help when possession was lost. He may have had the good fortune of a deflection and a penalty on his way to his hat-trick, but his overall contribution was worthy of a bit of luck.

3. Never rule Sevilla out

In just 12 weeks of La Liga action, Sevilla have already put their name on the scoresheet after the 85th minute mark on six occasions. That is 27 percent of their total goals and it just goes to show that this side is always a threat until the final whistle sounds. Against Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, they were trailing 2-1 in 86th minute, but by the end of the game they were celebrating a 3-2 victory. It is especially impressive that the Andalusians are able to keep fighting to the very last minute, given how physically demanding Jorge Sampaoli’s attacking style of play is, but this young team is determined enough to never give up.

4. Betis will be defensive for the time being

Fans of Real Betis demanded the sacking of Gus Poyet and they got it, with Victor Sanchez coming in during the international break. The new Coach gave the fans their second home win of the season on Friday night as they defeated Las Palmas 2-0, but the signs from that match are that his side will batten down the hatches until they sort out their leaking of goals. The team set up with a five-man defence and didn’t score from open play, instead capitalising from two corners. Sanchez said after the match that he hoped to use different formations going forward, but for the time being, Betis’ football could be just as defensive as it was on Friday. It might, though, be effective.

5. Anoeta will be as tough as ever for Barcelona

Having failed to overcome Malaga at the Camp Nou, Barcelona now need every point that can get. That makes this weekend’s trip to Real Sociedad at Anoeta especially problematic. La Blaugrana rarely do well in San Sebastian and have not won there on their past seven visits, but this season’s version of La Real is even better than some of the line-ups that Barca have struggled against in the past. Asier Illarramendi and David Zurutuza are forming a defensive-midfield duo that is tough to break down, while Willian Jose and Carlos Vela are banging in the goals up front. La Real now find themselves in fifth place after Sunday’s win over Sporting Gijon, and it will be a major achievement if Barca find a way to overcome them next Sunday.

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