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Monday September 24 2018
What we learned from La Liga Week 5

From giant-killers to curses, Daryl Hammond rounds up the best bits of the most recent Liga matchday…

1. Ben Yedder is underrated

With five goals in two starts, Wissam Ben Yedder has given Sevilla boss Pablo Machin a selection headache. The striker hit a brace in the Andalusians’ 5-1 Europa League win against Standard Liege, before bagging a first-half hat-trick at Levante.

The Frenchman was comfortably Sevilla’s top scorer last season with 22 goals in all competitions but has rode the bench this term for most part. Behind Luis Muriel and Andre Silva, were it not for a last-minute bid from Real Madrid, he would’ve also been behind Mariano Diaz.

A Monchi signing, there was little doubt he would present value for money, but Sevilla’s desire to justify the club-record acquisition of Muriel and a potential €30m signing in Silva means he fights for a place more than he needs to.

2. The fourth-place curse is real

For the many dissenters who call La Liga predictable, try forecasting who will finish fourth behind the usual gang of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. If the opening five games are anything to go buy, it won’t be the same as last year.

None of the last eight teams to finish fourth have managed to stay in the top four the following year, and it was Valencia’s turn in 2017-18 as they sealed their return to the Champions League, running out 12 points ahead of nearest challengers Villarreal.

They now sit 15th as for the first time in 19 years, Los Che have failed to win any of their first five matches, failing to score in three of them.

3. So much for VAR 

When writing about the introduction of VAR in La Liga, I expressed that while it was a positive step forward, it doesn’t eliminate the questionable refereeing of La Liga officials. Unfortunately for Barcelona and Clement Lenglet this week, I was right. The Frenchman was controversially sent off in a challenge with Pepe Pons.

Even the felled Pere Pons thought he was the one to foul Lenglet and not the other way around, the defender having connected with an elbow but lacked intent to do harm, although that’s down to interpretation.

Far less forgivable, however, was Wissam Ben Yedder’s disallowed goal for offside in Sevilla’s 2-0 defeat to Getafe the previous week. After consulting VAR, the referee made a decision any armchair fan could see was incorrect as the striker was clearly level with the last man. There are still kinks to work out

4. Stuani the giant-killer

Cristhian Stuani’s brace against Barcelona put him in unique company. He became the first player to score a brace against both Real Madrid and Barca in the same calendar year during the 21st century. A mouthful, yes, but he’s also proved a handful for both sides, getting his goals at the Santiago Bernabeu and Camp Nou respectively. He’s earned his spot at the top of La Liga’s goalscoring charts with Lionel Messi on five – and come a long way from misfiring for Middlesbrough.

5. A dirty week in La Liga

In a League which often favours technical ability over physicality, it got a bit rough this weekend. Seven red cards were flashed as six of the 10 matches saw at least one player sent off. We saw crunching challenges, elbows thrown and even slaps. It seems apt, given Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos chose to become the most booked player in Champions League history this week.

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