Monday October 17 2016
What we learned from La Liga Week 8

La Liga teams put on a show in the first round of fixtures after the international break. Euan McTear discusses five of the main talking points.

1. Atleti are no longer solely built on defence

In their Saturday-evening clash with Granada, Atletico Madrid conceded just their third goal of the entire season, which averages out at just one goal conceded every 2.67 La Liga matches. While fans at the Vicente Calderon and across Spain have become used to that kind of impressive defence, they have not been used to seeing Los Rojiblancos play so well in attack. They managed to put seven goals past Granada in that match, while they scored four in their game against Celta Vigo and five against Sporting Gijon. That kind of attacking firepower, coupled with the stingy defence of old, makes Diego Simeone’s team a force to be reckoned with.

2. Escriba deserves credit for keeping the Yellow Submarine afloat

When Marcelino left Villarreal without a Coach just days before the beginning of the new season, few would have predicted that the Yellow Submarine would be undefeated and just two points away from the leaders after eight matches. Yet that is exactly the situation they find themselves in as new Coach Fran Escriba has been able to keep last season’s fourth-placed team on the right track. Not only had Villarreal lost star players like Eric Bailly, Denis Suarez and Alphonse Areola in the summer, but they also began the season with a horrendous injury list. Escriba has, though, kept them competitive and playing at a high level, as evidenced by their 5-0 victory over Celta Vigo.

3. Sevilla’s attack can indeed compensate for their defence

One of the concerns some had with Jorge Sampaoli’s arrival at Sevilla was that his attacking philosophy might leave the Andalusian side too exposed at the back. Thus far, they have certainly been shaky in defence, finding themselves in the top half of the table for goals conceded, but they have been so swashbuckling going forward that they have been able to adopt a ‘if you score four, we’ll score six’ mentality and succeed with it. The latest example of that was in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Leganes, their first away La Liga win since May 2015,  when two calamitous defensive minutes threatened to ruin their afternoon, only for Pablo Sarabia to add a third goal.

4. The Basque derby is one of the best in Spain

They may not actually hail from the same city, but Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad have one of Spain’s most historic rivalries, dating back to 1909. It is also one of the most fun derby matches in the country, with fans happily mingling together in the same stands and little trouble ever coming of it. That was the case on Sunday afternoon as Athletic and Real fans shared some drinks and food together in Pozas Street outside the stadium, before heading into San Mames for one of the most entertaining games of the season. Real Sociedad’s defensive lapses certainly added to the entertainment factor and helped Athletic to mount a comeback, with Los Leones winning 3-2 and moving up to sixth.

5. Barca and Madrid are back

Were they ever really away? Barcelona and Real Madrid put the disappointing weekends they endured before the international break behind them with two five-star performances on Saturday. First up, Barcelona sauntered past Deportivo La Coruna on their way to a 4-0 win, with the Camp Nou crowd enjoying the afternoon’s festivities, as well as the return of Lionel Messi, who scored just three minutes after being substituted on. In the evening, Real Madrid had just as much fun as they swatted aside Real Betis in a 6-1 win. Raphael Varane scored in the fourth minute and Los Blancos never looked back, ending a run of three straight La Liga draws. 

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