1. Sevilla need this international break
Sevilla’s month went from bad to worse at the Estadio Vicente Calderon on Sunday with the team losing 3-1 to Atletico Madrid to see their lead over the fourth-placed Colchoneros cut to just two points, while they also conceded the head-to-head advantage to the capital city side. This came just days after Leicester City extinguished their Champions League hopes and followed on from consecutive draws in the league against newly-promoted sides. Discussing their issues post-match, Jorge Sampaoli suggested that Sevilla’s problems are emotional and not physical, but they need this international break either way in order to recharge.
2. Zidane flexes his tactical muscle
Some of the criticism directed Zinedine Zidane’s way in recent weeks has concerned his supposed inability to adjust his tactics. Some have suggested that the Frenchman has been too reliant on his 4-3-3 formation and that he was either unable to adjust it or that he had been wrongly adjusting it. On Saturday afternoon, however, Zidane switched things up and used a 4-4-2 in the second half of Real Madrid’s tricky trip to play Athletic Club in Bilbao. He moved Gareth Bale back onto the left wing to help mute Inaki Williams, while he also raised a few eyebrows by substituting both Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet Los Blancos got the vital win and they might have dropped points had they failed to react.
3. Celta Vigo enjoy sweet derby win
A goal from Iago Aspas earned Celta Vigo a 1-0 victory at the Estadio Riazor and saw them complete the double over Galician rivals Deportivo La Coruna for just the second time in the past decade. That fact alone will have pleased Vigo-based fans, but making the victory even sweeter was the fact that Celta threw Depor back into the relegation battle. Pepe Mel’s side had gone undefeated through his first four matches in the Deportivo dugout and they seemed to be inching away from the drop zone, but they have been dragged back into trouble and sit just six points ahead of Sporting Gijon.
4. Cup finalists Alaves must not be ruled out
For many, it is a formality that Barcelona will win the Copa del Rey when they take on Deportivo Alaves at the Estadio Vicente Calderon at the end of the season. However, the Basque minnows are demonstrating with each passing week that they should not be written off. This past weekend they showed their credentials yet again by defeating high-flying Real Sociedad 1-0, a result which sees them finish the weekend in the top half of the table. For a newly-promoted side, this is turning out to be an exceptional season and the fact that they have already defeated Barcelona at the Camp Nou shows they have what it takes, as do their draws against Atletico Madrid and Sevilla.
5. Corner kicks causing Barcelona problems
Barcelona’s home match against Valencia on Sunday night should have been a fairly routine home win. Not only were Barcelona at home against a team that has been struggling on the road, but they created a whole host of chances. Yet the Catalan side made hard work of it, once again conceding from a corner kick. Two goals from corners cost them points away at Deportivo La Coruna the previous weekend and it is an issue which could cost them the league title, especially considering how strong Real Madrid have been in the air at both ends.