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Tuesday October 23 2018
What we learned from La Liga Week 9

From maths being Real Madrid’s saving grace to a battle brewing between the sticks, Daryl Hammond looks back at the best storylines of the weekend…

1. No-one can count

Twenty days and three games without a goal for Real Madrid was a bizarre scenario. So bizarre it was almost record-worthy.

As Madrid’s toils in front of goal continued of Saturday against Levante, eyes turned from the pitch to the clock for 55 minutes, when Los Blancos’ lack of goals would become a club record. It came and went and the world of football crowed this Real Madrid side the most profligate.

It took 72 minutes for Marcelo to shimmy onto his right foot and thunder the ball past Oier Olazabal. The drought is over, but too little too late it seemed. Until everyone looked back to the previous record in April 1985 and saw they were wrong by 30 minutes. So no embarrassing record.

The score? Oh yeah, Madrid still lost 2-1 at home to Levante. Julen Lopetegui’s football may have finally conjured up a goal to avoid a historic low, but points continue to elude them.

2. Valencia can’t score either

For all the talk of Real Madrid’s woes in front of goal, Valencia have been far from prolific. A stalemate at home to Leganes means after nine games, they have only scored seven League goals. By this stage last season, they had already racked up 25, second both in goals and in the table only to Barcelona.

Rodrigo Moreno, their top goal scorer last season, had five goals by this point on his way en route to his total of 16. So far, he has only scored once. With the additions of Kevin Gameiro and Michy Batshuayi, as well as Goncalo Guedes signing permanently, they should be a better attacking force, but perhaps Simone Zaza, on loan at Torino, is a bigger miss than anticipated.

3. Periquitos flying high

Seeing Barcelona at the summit of La Liga is an expected sight, but seeing neighbours Espanyol among the frontrunners not so much.

Granted, they have played three of the bottom five in their last three games, but their 2-0 win at Huesca propelled them into uncharted territory. They currently sit second in La Liga, having never finished higher than third in their history.

With only three points separating the leaders and Real Valladolid in sixth, the table is very much subject to change. But for a side who finished 11th last season, it’s one hell of a start.

4. Ter Stegen is pretty good

When Lionel Messi left the pitch clutching his elbow in pain after 25 minutes against Sevilla, someone needed to step up and fill the void. Ousmane Dembele was the Argentine’s replacement, but goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was the true star.

With Samuel Umtiti injured and Gerard Pique out of form, the German proved an effective last line of defence, pulling off several incredible saves to keep his team ahead.

Perhaps the most eye-catching was the one which saw him spring to his right to claw away an Andre Silva header destined for the top corner.

Having saved Wissam Ben Yedder’s last-minute penalty in the Supercopa, he is quickly becoming Sevilla’s nemesis.

5. Oblak isn’t bad either

It is little wonder teams like Real Madrid and Valencia are struggling for goals considering the calibre of goalkeepers in the League. Ter Stegen’s heroics on Saturday will see Blaugrana fans further compare him to Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak, but the Slovenian had an impressive weekend of his own.

Sure, he has a more resolute defence in front of him, with Atletico the only team in Europe’s top five not to concede a first-half goal. Under worked in the first 45 minutes perhaps, but when called upon in the second half, he does his bit and Saturday was no exception, excelling in one-on-one situations to stop Villarreal’s forwards. No goalkeeper has made more saves in the last 15 minutes of La Liga matches this season. Let the debate continue.

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