1. Madrid are beginning to worry, and with good reason
The atmosphere at the Santiago Bernabeu as Real Madrid stuttered to a 1-1 draw with Basque minnows Eibar was one of angst and frustration, with some of the home fans showing their displeasure at the prospect of a fourth consecutive draw with whistles. There had been plenty of concern before this sharing of the spoils after draws with Villarreal, Las Palmas and Borussia Dortmund, but some of the panic that followed those results had been over the top. Villarreal finished fourth in La Liga last season and are steadily improving under new Coach Fran Escriba, while the other two matches were away from home and against high-flying teams. Yes, it’s Real Madrid, but there was no real shame in drawing those matches. Eibar, on the other hand, are a team that Los Blancos should have comfortably beaten, given the whole population of the Basque town would fill just a third of the Madrid side’s stadium and that Cristiano Ronaldo earns more in a year than Eibar’s entire budget. That they did not means that Madrid’s worried fans finally have cause for concern.
2. Atleti may have better strength in depth than Barcelona and Real
When Atletico Madrid won the league in 2013-14, there was a feeling that they had the best starting XI in the country, but that their lack of squad depth could cost them if one or two key players suffered injuries. Now, however, it seems that the tables have turned. Barcelona and Real Madrid can quite convincingly claim to have better first XIs than Los Rojiblancos, but the two giants of the Spanish game are suffering immensely from the absences of Leo Messi, Luka Modric and Casemiro, with neither winning this weekend. Atletico, on the other hand, are soaring despite their own injuries, one of which required 20-year-old Lucas Hernandez to fill in for Diego Godin at centre-back in Sunday’s 2-0 victoryj over Valencia. He played immensely and there was almost no drop-off in quality.
3. Diego Alves is a magician
Last weekend, Valencia’s goalkeeper Diego Alves saved the 17th penalty of his La Liga career against Leganes to set a new record, and it did not take him long at all to add to it. Although his side lost to Atletico Madrid on Sunday, the Brazilian parried two spot kicks, saving one in incredibly-acrobatic fashion against Antoine Griezmann in the first half, before giving the fans at the other end of Mestalla a front row seat to his heroics as he denied the capital city side’s captain Gabi. That means he has now saved more than half of the penalties he has faced in Spain’s top flight, swatting away 19 of 37. Perhaps when he retires he’ll share his spot kick trick with the rest of us.
4. Osasuna may be able to frustrate teams, but that won’t be enough to survive
Only two teams have yet to win a La Liga match so far this season. One of them is Granada, where the situation had gotten so bad that Paco Jemez is no longer at the club, while the other is Osasuna, where it would take something special for Enrique Martin to be sacked. That means his favoured 5-4-1 system is here to stay and that could spell trouble for the Pamplona team. This weekend, they were able to frustrate in-form Las Palmas and force them into crosses into the box, a tactic Las Palmas rarely use. Yet all Osasuna earned was one point and it seems that their defensive-minded approach will not generate many wins. They may not lose too many matches, but they won’t win enough to survive if they keep this up.
5. Real Sociedad show Las Palmas win was no fluke
Although Real Sociedad had already secured two victories, there were still some doubts surrounding Eusebio Sacristan’s team ahead of their Friday-night clash with Real Betis. One of those wins came against struggling Osasuna and it came with a little slice of luck, while their other three-point haul was achieved against Las Palmas as Real won 4-1 thanks to a fortuitous first-minute goal and the 21st-minute penalty and red card given up by the islanders’ star man Kevin Prince Boateng. On Friday, though, they showed that they wee a true threat, with Asier Illarramendi and Carlos Vela particularly impressive. The former was the puppet master in the centre of the park, while the latter struck the second-half winner. Next up is the derby with Athletic Bilbao and they look in great shape.
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