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Monday April 10 2017
What we learned from La Liga Week 31

Events in Madrid and Malaga mean it was a potentially-significant week in the La Liga title race, one which David Peters analyses below.

1. Real Madrid didn’t drop two points, but gained one

Antoine Griezmann’s 85th-minute goal ensured that the Derbi ended in a draw. For many, it was assumed that this was two points dropped by Real Madrid, but by the end of the day Los Blancos had edged one point further ahead in the title race after their rivals Barcelona fell to a 2-0 defeat at Malaga. That just goes to show how precious any point collected against Diego Simeone’s men is. Los Rojiblancos had won on their past three League visits to the Santiago Bernabeu, so this was not a bad result for Madrid at all. In fact, considering Atleti’s impressive recent form, it was a very valuable point.

2. Suspensions keep costing Barcelona

The absences of Gerard Pique and, to a lesser extent, Ivan Rakitic were evident as Barcelona lost their Saturday evening match against Malaga. The Catalan and Croat were both missing due to yellow-card suspensions, which turned out to be far more costly than first thought. This was not the first time that the Blaugrana have been hurt by suspensions this season and they actually drew 0-0 against Malaga at Camp Nou earlier in the campaign, partly because Luis Suarez had picked up a ban for that game. They’ll now be without in-form Neymar for at least one match after his Saturday night sending off, so that must worry Luis Enrique further.

3. Eibar really could qualify for Europe

Although Real Sociedad could climb back above them with a win on Monday night, Eibar currently sit in sixth place in the La Liga table. For a team from a town of 27,000, it is simply an extraordinary achievement to be that high at this stage of the season, but Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar wants Los Armeros to stay in that section of the table. Their target at the start of the season was survival, but now that they’ve achieved this, he has revised their objective and demanded that his team secures a top-eight finish. Not only are they on course to achieve that, but they are also genuine contenders to finish seventh or higher, which could bring European football to the Basque valleys next season.

4. Too little, too late for Osasuna

Osasuna had not won a La Liga match since October, but they have now won two in a the space of four days, defeating Alaves 1-0 away from home midweek, before defeating Leganes 2-1 at El Sadar on Sunday. They remain 10 points from safety, so this recent surge is surely too little, too late for the team from Pamplona, but it could help put a positive spin on what has been a painful season for their supporters. Not only has their team struggled to collect results, but the football has been tough to watch for large spells and it has only become slightly more attractive and expansive under sporting-director-turned-Soach Petar Vasiljevic. The fans deserve some joy and these consolation victories are at least something.

5. Sevilla are back in business

After a very difficult month, in which Sevilla saw their sporting director Monchi announce his exit, were knocked out of the Champions League and went five League matches without tasting a win, Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Deportivo La Coruna was much-needed. It snapped their winless streak, got their battle for third place back on track and, most importantly, they did it Jorge Sampaoli’s way. The Argentine had come in for some criticism after the recent dip in form, but he has stuck by his attacking instincts and he was rewarded with three points and an entertaining game of football. 

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