From Karim Benzema’s importance to a new low for Paco Jemez, these are the five things Football Espana learned from the weekend’s action…
1. Betis are the Real deal
After threatening to hit form on several occasions this season, Real Betis have finally delivered on that promise. Friday’s 1-0 win at Girona was the Andalusians’ fifth on the bounce as they moved five points clear of city rivals Sevilla in fifth place and took a step closer to qualifying for the Europa League next season. With Marc Bartra tightening up a leaky defence, Joaquin Sanchez leading his troops by example and Loren Moron and Sergio Leon both banging in the goals, Quique Setien’s Verdiblancos vision is starting to come together.
2. Barca still need Iniesta
Andres Iniesta may turn 34 next month and leave Barcelona this summer as speculation persists that he will move to China, but judging by his performance during Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Valencia, Philippe Coutinho has his work cut out if he is to become the Catalans’ next No 8. Picking passes and turning Los Che players for fun, the veteran’s mastery in finding space for his teammates was behind Barca’s dominance until he left to a standing ovation in the 80th minute. Not many teams will be more relieved than Valencia if he does indeed move on.
If you didn’t watch Andres Iniesta play and heard that me might be off to China then you’d think he was a washed up, old timer.
The reality is that he’s still absolutely sublime and would run rings around your favourite midfielder.
— totalBarça (@totalBarca) April 14, 2018
3. Jemez is no leader
Once heralded as one of Spain’s most promising Coaches, Paco Jemez’s stock reached a new low on Sunday after Las Palmas’ 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad. While most tacticians would stray away from criticising their own publicly, the former Rayo Vallecano boss took aim at his crestfallen team yet again, accusing them of ‘lacking footballing resources’ after he had already branded them ‘the worst side he had ever coached’ and suggested the islanders should ‘get rid of everyone’. With a third failed job on his CV, Jemez may need to stop blaming others and start looking at himself.
4. Abelardo deserves an award
When Abelardo Fernandez returned to coach Alaves in December, the side were rock bottom of La Liga and had picked up just six points from their opening 13 games. Yet it took their former defender barely his first game to lift the team, kicking off his reign with a 3-2 win at Girona. Since then, Abelardo has led the Basques to 12 victories in their next 22 matches, with Sunday’s 1-0 success at Eibar their third consecutive clean sheet. La Liga may have scrapped its yearly awards, but candidates wouldn’t come much better than the Gijon native.
5. Benzema key for Madrid
Yes, Karim Benzema has only scored nine goals for Real Madrid this season and misses more chances than he should. However, the striker’s selfless performance during their 2-1 win at Malaga on Sunday proved exactly why Zinedine Zidane was persisting with him. Constantly holding up play for the likes of Lucas Vazquez and Isco to run into space and do damage, his intelligence was best personified by a feint in the build-up to Los Blancos’ clincher. Granted, there are more prolific players than the Frenchman. But in a team with Cristiano Ronaldo, are goals really such a pressing concern?