1. Barca and Madrid warm down before the Clasico
The first Clasico of the season takes place next Saturday, but Barcelona and Real Madrid both prepared for it with lacklustre performances. The Catalan team visited Anoeta, one of their least favourite stadiums, and were played off the park by Real Sociedad on their way to a 1-1 draw, with their midfield especially poor. Los Blancos, meanwhile, may have defeated Sporting Gijon 2-1 in the Saturday afternoon rain, but they did not play well either and the Asturians missed a late penalty that would have levelled the game, causing the home fans to whistle their team off the pitch at full-time. With both sides still suffering from long injury lists, next weekend’s Clasico could be one of the poorest in terms of quality that fans have witnessed in several years.
2. Piatti deserves more recognition
Espanyol had a slow start to the season, registering just one win in their opening nine matches, but they have turned it around in recent weeks and are up to 11th place with three wins in their past four matches. Leading the revival has been Argentine Pablo Piatti, who has provided seven assists and who has scored five goals, with his most recent assist and two goals coming in this weekend’s 3-0 win over Leganes. With Espanyol having scored just 17 goals this La Liga campaign, that means he has been involved in 71 percent of their goals, which is extraordinary.
3. Osasuna look re-energised under Caparros
They remain second bottom after a 3-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid, but Osasuna played far better on Sunday afternoon than that scoreline suggests. It was just the second match in charge for new Coach Joaquin Caparros and the Pamplona-based team played far better than they had when losing 2-0 against Leganes in his debut. Los Rojiblancos’ goalkeeper Jan Oblak had to save an early penalty and the visiting defence were under siege for the opening half an hour, before the difference in quality between the two sides showed. Caparros later blamed individual errors for the final result and he had a point, given that Osasuna looked much improved tactically with their 4-4-2 formation. There is a good chance they can play themselves out of relegation bother under the new boss.
4. No team is going to enjoy a trip to Eibar
Eibar managed to keep up their excellent run of form by defeating Real Betis 3-1 on Friday night, a result that pushed them up to seventh in La Liga. The main reason for their success has been their home form, with Los Armeros having won five of their seven home matches so far this campaign. That is why no team is going to relish a trip to play at Ipurua, the 6,000-seater stadium that is always packed with passionate fans up tight to the pitch. Atletico Madrid and Barcelona both visit in the next month and neither of those title challengers will be looking forward to that fixture.
5. Alaves’ sacking of promotion-winning Bordalas paying off
It came as a shock when Alaves sacked Jose Bordalas last summer after he had led them to the Segunda title and, therefore, to a promotion to La Liga. Yet Alaves played some pretty negative football last season and those in the club’s hierarchy realised that a change would be needed to help them avoid an immediate relegation. That was why they hired Mauricio Pellegrino, and that bold decision is paying off, with the Basque side defeating Villarreal 2-0 last weekend to move up to 13th. They have shown that they are capable of playing a variety of systems this season, which has helped them to also earn a point away at Atletico Madrid and a win away at Barcelona.