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Tuesday October 2 2018
What we learned from La Liga Week 7

From the impact of no Lionel Messi to Andre Silva surpassing a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, Daryl Hammond rounds up the best bits of the weekend...

1. Lionel Messi

One day Lionel Messi will no longer be at Barcelona or in football altogether, and the sporting world will weep. Until then, we’re obliged to squeeze as much footballing genius out of him as possible.

Resting Messi is uncommon but not unheard of, and Ernesto Valverde chose to exercise that option against Athletic Bilbao ahead of a Champions League game against Tottenham Hotspur.

Trailing 1-0, the Argentine ultimately came on and orchestrated the equalising goal scored by Munir El Haddadi six minutes before time. More than ever, this Barca side are built around Messi and rely on him for creativity, as well as goals.

When it comes to football the No 10 is a freak, not only in terms of his feats or their consistency but also his longevity, featuring in all-but-two League games last term. Regularly playing 90 minutes of 45+ matches a season, he’s shown that he can play on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Having said that, one cannot blame Valverde for thinking a front three of Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele couldn’t get the job done at home.

2. Simeone stops Real again

Real Madrid have had four Coaches at the helm in the past six years, yet none of them have been able to best Diego Simeone’s Atletico side at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga.

Of the last 11 meetings. Madrid have only won once. Simeone has had Real’s number for a while, but it’s worth noting as a marker of how far they have come in the past decade as a club.

Before that, Atletico went over 20 Liga games without victory over their neighbours, so much so that in 2011 Real taunted them with a banner stating they were ‘looking for a worthy rival for a decent derby’.

3. Spain the place for Andre Silva

It only took Andre Silva one match in Sevilla colours to eclipse his League goal tally for Milan with his opening day hat-trick against Rayo Vallecano. His record currently stands at seven goals in as many games – two more than Cristiano Ronaldo managed in his first season at Real Madrid.

Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso admitted he did not want to let the striker go and that he chose to leave for first-team football with the arrival of Gonzalo Higuain. For both his reputation and his confidence, it was the right thing to do.

4. Spain can do more for fans

On the pitch, things couldn’t be better for La Liga match-goers in terms of the action. However, there have been problems off it.

The issue of stadium safety resurfaced this weekend when Sevilla fans were injured in a clamour to celebrate Ever Banega’s penalty, with part of the stand in the away end at Eibar’s Ipurua arena giving way. Earlier this season, Rayo Vallecano saw their stadium closed for safety reasons.

A stadium unfit for purpose for many years, it took a four-year-old child to fall through the stand to bring about change. Similarly, it took fans and players suffering in 30°C+ heat to force a rethink on kick-off times.

5. No home comforts

Leo Suarez’s thumping half-volley for Real Valladolid condemned parent club Villarreal to their third defeat of the season – and all of them have come at La Ceramica.

After beating Athletic Bilbao 3-0 at San Mames midweek, facing the recently-promoted side should have posed little threat. Yet much like their games against Girona and Real Sociedad earlier on in the campaign, the Yellow Submarine couldn’t find the goal to make a difference.

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