Monday September 12 2016
What we learned from La Liga Week 3

Week three of La Liga followed the international break – Euan McTear analyses five talking points from the action.

1. There's nothing wrong with rotating, but doing it all at once can backfire

With Barcelona losing 2-1 at home to newly-promoted Alaves, Luis Enrique was heavily criticised for over-rotating. The Asturian Coach left out Leo Messi and Andres Iniesta, both of whom were recovering from injuries, as well as Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba. Of course, had the team won then he'd have been hailed as a genius at having kept players fresh for Tuesday's Champions League clash with Celtic, but Alaves didn't let him get away with it. It'll certainly aid Barcelona in the long run to rest their starters, but to rest so many at once proved ill-advised.

2. Alaves and Leganes look like the strongest promoted sides

While Barca were poor, they primarily lost on Saturday because Alaves were impressive. This wasn't their first big result, having secured a hard-fought 1-1 draw away at Atletico Madrid on the opening weekend, with a goalless draw with Sporting Gijon sandwiched in between. Leganes also drew with Los Rojiblancos, as well as defeating Celta Vigo 1-0 away from home and coming close away at Sporting on Sunday. That just goes to show the strength of La Liga as a whole, with the newly-promoted sides refreshingly holding their own. Osasuna, meanwhile, have been far from terrible. Although they suffered a heavy loss at Real Madrid, they have drawn at Malaga and put together an impressive first half in their loss to Real Sociedad.

3. Valencia's problem may be one of bad luck

Valencia's 3-2 loss to Real Betis was the third defeat in three for Los Che, making this their worst start to a League season in 17 years. However, there were some positive signs in Sunday's latest humbling. The team did well to fight back from two goals down with a man disadvantage and Jose Luis Gaya also forced off. Yet they blew their chance of a draw at the last gasp when Ruben Castro snuck in at the back post. There were also positive signs last time against Eibar and the week before that against Las Palmas, but Valencia appear to have earned a heavy dose of bad luck. If they can shake it off they should be fine, but Lady Luck may well have a few more sucker punches saved up her sleeve for them.

4. Atleti are scarily dangerous when they click

Although Atletico Madrid had dominated their opening two matches against Alaves and Leganes, they picked up just two points from those two fixtures. On Saturday lunchtime, however, they finally clicked against Celta Vigo, who are certainly no slouches after finishing sixth last season. Although some of the same attacking struggles persisted in the first half, Antoine Griezmann and Koke combined shortly after half-time, after which they banged in another three, with each goal originating from the right wing. If Atletico can click like that as the season goes forward, they certainly have the attacking potential to blow teams away.

5. Las Palmas lose lead but play well once again

They may no longer be La Liga leaders, but Las Palmas continue to win the hearts of neutrals across the country and beyond. The fact that they went toe-to-toe with a powerful Sevilla side was admirable, while the fact they only saw their 1-0 lead cut at Sanchez Pizjuan because of a controversial penalty call in the 89th minute, followed by a stoppage-time Sevilla winner once they were down to 10 men, showed that they were worthy of the top spot they held over the international break. It will certainly be exciting to see just how high the islanders can finish this season and whether or not they can win a European place.

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