Tuesday February 14 2017
What we learned from La Liga Week 22

With a full weekend of La Liga action this time around, David Peters discusses the main talking points in Spanish football’s top division. 

1. Zidane’s tactical shake-up almost backfired

Real Madrid managed to eke out a victory away at Osasuna, with the 3-1 score line flattering Los Blancos, who found their hosts tough to break down. Part of the reason for their struggle stemmed from Zinedine Zidane’s choice of tactics, with the Frenchman opting for the 3-5-2 formation he debuted in last month’s defeat against Sevilla. There were issues at both ends of the pitch, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema both isolated from the midfield and with Madrid’s backline struggling to cope with Osasuna’s pressure. Keylor Navas had to make seven saves, highlighting how tricky it was for the league leaders.

2. Vidal won’t solve Barcelona’s right-back problem, but for an unexpected reason

Just a couple of months ago, few expected that Aleix Vidal could be the solution for Barcelona at right-back, but his performances in recent weeks have shown that he can contribute and that he had a chance of working his way into Luis Enrique’s plans for the second half of the season. He may have kept struggling a little in defence, but he was offering so much in attack with his goals and assists that it seemed he had finally made the position his. Then injury struck. A nasty challenge in the 6-0 win over Alaves left Vidal with a broken ankle and has ended his season. He won’t be starting at right-back for Luis Enrique after all, but not for the reason most had initially expected.

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3. Sevilla’s away form couldn’t have improved any further

In the 2015-16 season, Sevilla’s form away from the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan was horrific, with the Andalusian side failing to win a single game on the road. This year, however, they have improved drastically and even managed to defeat Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, something no team - including Real Madrid - had yet been able to do in this La Liga season. Having won six, drawn three and lost three, Jorge Sampaoli’s team now boasts the second best away record in the country, behind Barcelona. For that reason, they remain a serious challenger at the top of the table.

4. Sporting Gijon have given themselves a chance

One of the lower key results of the weekend may actually prove to be one of the most significant. Sporting Gijon started the La Liga weekend inside the relegation zone on 13 points, five away from Leganes, who they travelled to play on Sunday afternoon. A win for the newly-promoted side would have made survival close to impossible for Sporting, but an away victory would suck Leganes to within two points and seriously boost the Asturian team’s hopes of climbing out of the drop zone. Goals from Roberto Canella and Jorge Franco Burgui proved enough to take all three points away from the Estadio Butarque and to extend Leganes’ winless run to 10 league games. All of a sudden, the momentum is with Sporting.

5. Atletico Madrid saved their domestic season

Having been knocked out of the Copa del Rey away at Barcelona the previous Tuesday night, Atletico Madrid headed into Sunday evening’s battle of the cup semi-final losers against Celta Vigo knowing they needed a victory. Not only did Diego Simeone’s men need to put a positive spin on a disappointing week for their fans, but the only thing they had left to fight for in domestic competition was La Liga’s third spot and automatic Champions League qualification. With Sevilla having won earlier in the day, Atletico knew a loss would leave them seven points behind and with five minutes to go they were trailing 2-1. Yet a wonderful volley from Yannick Carrasco and Antoine Griezmann’s last gasp finish saved Los Rojiblancos’ domestic season.  

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