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Monday April 3 2017
What we learned from La Liga Week 29

La Liga returned following the latest international break and David Peters is on hand to analyse the main talking points from the action.

1. The ‘big three’ weren’t trapped by the trap games

Much of the discussion in the build up to this weekend centred on the fact that the top teams all had matches which looked simple on paper, but which might actually be more difficult than they first appeared. Atletico Madrid were the first up as they visited Malaga on a hot and sticky Saturday night with several players missing, but they ground out a 2-0 win, before a heavily-rotated Real Madrid were able to see off in-form Alaves 3-0 and before a Messi-less Barcelona picked up a 4-1 victory away at a desperate Granada side. None of those score lines do justice to the way each team struggled at various moments, but securing three points was all that mattered.

2. However, Sevilla did slip up

The only team in the top four to drop points this weekend was Sevilla, and they had arguably the easiest fixture of them all. At home to relegation zone side Sporting Gijon, they had two thirds of possession and twice as many shots, but Sevilla could not find the killer touch in the final third and have now gone five matches in all competitions without a win, which pushed them out of La Liga’s top three. Admittedly, Sevilla were suffering from a number of injuries, but their form must still be worrying for Jorge Sampaoli as they enter the business end of the season.

3. Reyes loves sinking Real Betis

It wasn’t a terrible weekend for Sevilla, though, and that’s because their city rivals lost 2-1 on Friday night thanks to a last gasp laser from their former player and current Espanyol forward Jose Antonio Reyes. That was his sixth strike against Betis in his career, making them his joint-top favourite opponent. He has also scored half a dozen times against Real Mallorca, but nothing will come sweeter to Reyes than finding the back of the net against the Green and Whites, as his Friday night celebration suggested.

4. Real Sociedad struggle without their engine room

2016-17 has been an excellent season for Real Sociedad and one of the main reasons for their success has been the central midfield partnership of Asier Illarramendi and David Zurutuza. Yet they have been without the duo for their past two matches, as a result of a combination of suspension and injury, and in their absence they suffered a 1-0 loss to Alaves and were then held at home by Leganes. Those results were disappointing considering La Real’s European aspirations and the fact that Alaves and Leganes have only just been promoted and they prove just how vital the pair’s presence in the middle of the park has been. The sooner they return, the sooner Real Sociedad should return to winning ways.

5. Diego Alves is the penalty-saving king

Not for the first time and surely not for the last, Diego Alves saved a penalty kick. Faycal Fajr was the latest to be denied from the spot, a costly miss considering his Deportivo La Coruna side went on to lose 3-0 against Valencia, with their opponents opening the scoring just two minutes afterwards. For the goalkeeper, this was the 24th penalty he has saved of the 50 he has faced since arriving in La Liga, while another two were off target. That means that less than half of the penalties he has faced have gone in, which is simply unbelievable. 

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