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Monday December 19 2016
What we learned from La Liga Week 16

The final La Liga weekend of 2016 offered up the usual dose of quality football. David Peters takes a look at the main talking points as we head into the winter break.

1. Sevilla really can finish above Atleti

Atletico Madrid may have secured their first win in December by sneaking past Las Palmas 1-0, but Sevilla delivered a statement of their own intent just hours later as they smashed four goals past Malaga in 10 first-half minutes on their way to a 4-1 victory. It was a match most would have expected Jorge Sampaoli’s side to win, but the manner in which they turned it on during that ten-minute spell that will have left defences across Spain shivering in fear during the winter break. Not only have Sevilla improved defensively since the beginning of the season, but they have also shown they have the attacking firepower necessary to maintain their excellent start. They are still five points above Atleti and there is no reason why they cannot stay there. Betting Expert offer some great tips on the Andalusians.

2. Griezmann needs this Christmas break

It has now been 769 minutes since Antoine Griezmann scored a La Liga goal. The Frenchman has been struggling of late, not just when it comes to finding the back of the net himself but also in creating chances for his teammates. He hasn’t scored in his past nine League matches and has created just three assists during that time. Against Las Palmas on Saturday, the attacker tried his best to drive his team towards a much-needed victory but simply lacked his usual sharpness in the final third and was unable to convert any of his five attempts on goal. If anyone needs this three-week winter break to reset themselves after a long 2016, it’s Griezmann.

3. A referee helped make a football match better

In the same weekend as refereeing decisions and video officiating were being criticised at the FIFA Club World Cup, there was some good refereeing in the Catalan derby. Antonio Mateu Lahoz is one of the most criticised referees in the country, but on Sunday evening he booked two Espanyol players inside the first 15 minutes, which may have prevented the match from becoming the overly-physical and overly-aggressive contest that other recent Derbis had become. Both challenges would likely have merited a yellow card had they taken place in the second half, so Lahoz stamped his authority early on and nipped the aggression in the bud, allowing a footballing battle to develop, not a muscular one.

4. Pato one of the best in the League – if he can stay fit

One of the top performers of the La Liga weekend was Villarreal’s Alexandre Pato. The 27-year-old was superb in his side’s 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon, scoring once, provoking two saves and forcing three blocks inside the penalty area. He dribbled past the Sporting defenders all match and the rare occasions he didn’t skip past them were because he was being fouled, with the Brazilian winning his side a very useful six free-kicks during the match. It helped the Yellow Submarine to secure their first away La Liga win since September and showed why he was worth taking a gamble on during the summer transfer window. As injury-prone as he may be, what he can offer when healthy will make Villarreal’s small investment worth it.

5. Abelardo remains Sporting Coach, for now

One of Pato’s victims might have been Abelardo Fernandez, the Sporting Gijon Coach who was called for a meeting with the club’s President after their latest defeat, their sixth in seven matches. He came out of it still in his post, but it remains to be seen how much longer he’ll keep hold of it. The Asturian side will spend Christmas in the relegation zone and Abelardo has been criticised for some of recent decision-making, while his outburst against a journalist a couple of weeks ago didn’t exactly help him to keep a low-profile. He has done a lot for Sporting at a financially-difficult time for the club by winning them promotion and keeping them in La Liga last year, but football will always be a results business.

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