Saturday September 24 2016
What we learned from La Liga Week 5

La Liga and its 20 teams were in action midweek, so Euan McTear reflects on this extra-special fifth matchday.

1. Atleti are still in this title race

No team wins the League in September, but plenty of teams can lose it in the first month. Atletico Madrid were on the verge of falling out of the race, even at this early stage, given that they had dropped two points in each of their first two matches of the season, both against newly-promoted sides. On Wednesday night, however, Los Rojiblancos were the team celebrating. With Real Madrid drawing and with their comeback draw at Camp Nou, Atletico were the big winners out of the three title candidates and remain just four points behind their city rivals and League leaders, when they could have easily finished the night seven points adrift.

2. Casemiro is essential for Madrid to click

There was an argument to be made that Real Madrid’s best player last season was Casemiro, rather than a member of their glamour BBC front three. With him in the team, they didn’t lose a match last La Liga season, his absence in the 4-0 Clasico defeat especially noteworthy. It is not that Casemiro is the best defensive midfielder in the world, far from it, but it’s that Los Blancos don’t have any other player who can fulfil his role. So with Casemiro out injured in the midweek match against Villarreal, Zinedine Zidane turned to Mateo Kovacic and Toni Kroos in the centre of the park, which was far from effective. In the first half, the visiting Manu Trigueros and Bruno Soriano bossed proceedings, before the capital city side took back a little more control in the second half as Villarreal sat back. He’s out for another four to eight weeks, and that could hurt Madrid hugely.

3. Leganes’ Brazilian front two could keep them safe

Leganes secured their second win since winning their first-ever La Liga promotion, a 2-1 triumph over Deportivo La Coruna on Thursday night. The two goals were scored by their Brazilian imports Gabriel and Luciano Neves, with the former also assisting the latter’s goal. This South American firepower could prove enough to keep the capital outfit safe from relegation, with Luciano, on loan from Corinthians, looking like a bright young talent. The 23-year-old netted 12 times in 54 lLague appearances for Corinthians and is certainly capable of reaching double figures this season. Gabriel, meanwhile, was already with Leganes last season and proved vital in their promotion push. He can play in a variety of positions and it already appears that most of Leganes’ attacking play is going through him. If they keep up this impressive start then Lega can survive.

4. Valencia’s win does not mean Pako Ayestaran was the problem

Just two days after sacking Pako Ayestaran, Valencia picked up their first points of the season with a 2-1 win at home to Alaves. Some will take that to mean that all is now fine and well at Mestalla now that Ayestaran is out of the picture, but it should be noted that it was a far-from-convincing win. It took an own goal and a last-minute penalty to see off the newly-promoted side, so Los Che still have much to improve. They were not that bad beforehand, but nor are they that great now. The club’s problems are so deep-rooted that changing the Coach will only affect results so much, so we should not expect a miraculous revival any time soon, no matter who is appointed as the permanent replacement.

5. Sevilla’s home form can take them to the Champions League

Incredibly, Sevilla have not won an away match in the past two seasons, yet they continue to pick up points at the Sanchez Pizjuan and are perfect so far in that regard this term. They were similarly impressive at home last year, coming fourth in the home League table with 43 points from 19 games, just six behind than Barcelona and Real Madrid and five fewer than Atletico. If Jorge Sampaoli’s side can continue to win in Seville, as they did on Tuesday night when they edged a tough derby with Real Betis, then this side can finish in a Champions League spot. They were good enough at home to finish seventh last year, despite their troubles on the road, and look even more powerful at home in what we’ve seen of this campaign. 

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