La Liga Latest: No Clear Front Runner At Present7 min read
Still top of La Liga they may be, but Barcelona can consider themselves fortunate.
A tiring Leganes side had the Catalans on the ropes for long periods of their game on Saturday lunchtime.
Despite having all of Messi, Suarez, Dembele and Greizmann starting the game, it was the hosts who looked the more dangerous.
Los Pepineros are still rooted to the bottom of the table with the most amount of goals conceded in the Spanish top flight.
And yet, were it not for two momentary lapses of concentration from set pieces, the Madrid-based club could deservedly have won the game.
Youssef En-Nesry’s 11th-minute stunner brought Butarque to its feet, and rightly so. His rocket was so good that Marc-Andre ter Stegen didn’t even bother to move.
Barca did go close before half-time but it wasn’t until Leo Messi’s perfectly flighted free-kick found Suarez unmarked to level. Sub Arturo Vidal completed the turnaround with 10 to play, but the performance left more questions than answers.
With Borussia Dortmund on the immediate horizon and Atletico Madrid in La Liga’s game of next weekend, Ernesto Valverde has work to do.
Only their home form is saving their skin at the moment, because away from the Camp Nou they’ve been awful quite frankly.
The win over Leganes was just their fourth in the last 12 away games, and that’s nowhere near good enough for the Blaugrana.
Sergio Busquets’ yellow card rules him out of the Atleti game, whilst Gerard Pique will miss the Dortmund clash.
Barca’ injured players can’t return quickly enough, and the next seven days could have a huge bearing on their season.
Atletico struggling but could surprise at weekend
Diego Simeone, for all of his successes as Atleti coach, has never beaten Barca in a league fixture. Scarcely seems believable does it?!
But maybe next Sunday’s encounter at the Wanda Metropolitano is the first genuine occasion when the Argentinian can say to his players that the Blaugrana are there for the taking.
It’s true that the Rojiblancos have struggled to find the net this season and if they want to be in the shake up at the business end, that has to quickly be addressed.
However, a solid defensive structure has never been in question and it’s on that foundation that Atleti can build. How Barca would love to have such a luxury.
Against a fading Granada side and with a strong line up, the visitors were found wanting at times.
Set up with Simeone’s preferred, rigid 4-4-2 formation, Atleti probably needed a little more flexibility against a side who’d already made a mockery of Barca’s favourites tag this season.
The hosts’ 4-2-3-1 was both attacking and solid, and in players such as Gonalons, Azeez and Vadillo, Granada’s movement was often superior.
In truth, there wasn’t an awful lot wrong with the application of the Atleti players, but they’ve lost the zip that they possessed at the beginning of the season when they came firing out of the blocks.
After taking the lead through Renan Lodi at the Estadio Nuevo de Los Carmenes, the visitors should’ve seen the game out, but lacking any star quality, they were soon pegged back, German Sanchez Barahona sending the home crowd wild.
Though their former player, Antoine Griezmann, has had a tough time at the Camp Nou, what price a goalscoring return for the Frenchman?
Karim Benzema driving Madrid forward
Neighbours, Real Madrid, entertained an emerging Real Sociedad outfit at the Santiago Bernabeu, and the boos and whistles when Gareth Bale’s name was read out before the game were clearly noticeable.
The Welshman’s sense of humour certainly isn’t shared by the Madridistas and their mood wasn’t helped when the visitors took an early lead through Willian Jose, thanks to an awful error from Sergio Ramos.
Karim Benzema has enjoyed himself much more since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Juventus, and his equaliser just before half-time was his 10th of the season already – one of his best returns for Los Blancos by this stage of the season.
Fede Valverde’s piledriver and general play showed that Real Madrid remain a real threat in all areas and to those other teams at the top of the table, albeit some of the football being played by La Real was sublime at times.
? Gareth Bale is welcomed into the game by whistles from all around the Bernabeu! pic.twitter.com/PSk82cBDQx
— Premier Sports ? (@PremierSportsTV) November 23, 2019
Martin Odegaard looked particularly lively against his parent club, and will have surely given Zinedine Zidane some food for thought for next season. As will the noise from the Bernabeu when Bale eventually came on with 25 to play.
The Welshman had a hand in Real’s third, finished by Luka Modric, a goal which finally took the game away from the team from San Sebastian.
Last minute perfection
Elsewhere, the most surprising result came in the Betis-Valencia match. Once Los Che had taken the lead through Maxi Gomez, against the joint worst defence in the league, the writing was on the wall for Rubi and his troops.
Step forward Joaquin, Betis’ golden boy, to fire home a vital equaliser before the break.
A draw would’ve been a fair result, but Sergio Canales’ 93rd-minute free-kick deserved to win any game.
That goal saw the Verdiblancos jump four places in the table and away from the relegation zone, and saw Rubi breath a huge sigh of relief in the process.
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