1. Isco, the backup who plays like a starter
Zinedine Zidane made nine changes to the Real Madrid starting XI which defeated Bayern Munich in Germany last midweek, trusting his reserves to get the job done away at Sporting Gijon. Playing the backups should have been a disadvantage for Los Blancos, but the fact that Isco, who is still bewilderingly being left out for the big matches, was given a chance saw them escape with three points. He dominated the match and scored two excellent solo goals to secure the 3-2 victory and once again showed Zidane why he should be considered a starter, rather than a placeholder to be used in order to give the BBC front three a rest.
2. Atletico Madrid’s penalty woes continue
Antoine Griezmann slotted past Kasper Schmeichel last Wednesday night in the Champions League for his first successful penalty attempt of his club season, suggesting that Atletico Madrid’s trouble from 12 yards out was behind them. Yet they missed a couple more during their 3-0 win over Osasuna on Saturday, taking their record for the season to five converted penalties from 13 attempts. Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Partey were the latest to see efforts saved and it proved that Los Rojiblancos have not turned a corner when it comes to spot kicks. Instead, their struggles from 12 yards continue.
3. Defence will be the issue as Barcelona attempt The Comeback 2.0
Luis Enrique was confident that Barcelona could overturn their 3-0 deficit against Juventus and pointed to the fact that the Blaugrana can fire a handful of goals past any team on their day. The problem when they take on the Italians at the Camp Nou this Tuesday will be the fact that they are just as capable of leaking goals at the back. Barcelona edged past Real Sociedad with a 3-2 win on Saturday, but their defending was unconvincing and did little to suggest they’ll keep a clean sheet in their Champions League second leg. If Juventus score one then Barcelona will need five on the night and it would shock nobody if they do indeed let the Italians smudge the scoresheet.
4. Athletic are as good at home as Las Palmas are bad away
There was nothing surprising about Athletic Club’s Friday night 5-1 victory over Las Palmas. The Bilbao-based club are the third best home team in the country behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, while their guests from the Canary Islands are the second worst away team in the division, one which has not won on the road since they did so at Valencia on the very first day of the season. Both teams have been good enough at home to meet their respective objectives, but have been held back by poor away form and that was clear for all to see as Athletic played as well against Las Palmas at San Mames as the Canary Islanders had done when they defeated the Basques 3-1 earlier in the season.
5. Tony Adams’ “kick up the arse” didn’t work
Granada sacked local lad, former player and three-time coach Lucas Alcaraz last week to hand the hot seat of the dugout to sporting director Tony Adams. The Englishman immediately promised that he would give his players a “kick up the arse” to propel them up and out of the drop zone, but it did not work. They were comfortably beaten at home on Sunday night, losing 3-0 to a Celta Vigo side which was below strength given that they were resting several starters for their midweek Europa League match. It was one of Granada’s poorest performances of the season and got the Adams era off to the worst possible start.
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