Saturday, January 22, 2022

Five things we learned from La Liga

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Barcelona and Valencia were the big winners of a La Liga weekend that saw Real Madrid’s title defence stumble once more in a bad-tempered capital derby at Atletico Madrid.

Barca now lead Real and Atletico by 10 points, a margin no side has ever overcome to win La Liga.

Valencia remain the closest challengers, just four points back, but had to ride their luck to win at Espanyol and set up an enticing showdown with Barca at Mestalla next weekend.

Here, AFP Sports looks at five things we learned from the La Liga weekend:

Barca win twice over in Madrid
Even Barca boss Ernesto Valverde admitted the scoreline was flattering but once again without shining, his side got the job done as Luis Suarez snapped a five-game goal drought with a double in a 3-0 win at Leganes on the south side of Madrid on Saturday afternoon.

Paulinho even came off the bench to notch his fourth La Liga goal of the season, matching the total sum provided by Real’s famed ‘BBC’ front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.

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Barca then had the luxury of sitting back and watching Real and Atletico bruise and batter each other across the capital hours later on Saturday night for a result that only damaged both of their title credentials.

Aggressive Atletico
Diego Simeone insisted he was with Antoine Griezmann “to the death” as long as he remains in the Atletico family despite once again being hauled off 15 minutes from time amid jeers from the home fans.

The rest of the Atletico performance suggested they may have taken Simeone’s words a little too literally.

Sergio Ramos was left bloodied and with a broken nose from a flying Lucas Hernandez boot, Angel Correa smashed a ball into Benzema’s face and Stefan Savic escaped with a yellow card when he should have seen red for a horrendous lunge on Toni Kroos.

Atletico ended the night with six bookings as they rediscovered the aggressive streak shown by Simeone’s sides of seasons past. Now they just need the results to follow.

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Getafe get revenge
Beating a side that very recently gave you the sack 4-1 must be pretty sweet. It must be all the sweeter, though, when the firing came after winning promotion.

Alaves relieved Jose Bordalas Jimenez of his duties after leading them back to the top flight for the first time in over a decade in 2016 as he was deemed not good enough for La Liga.

Bordalas then repeated the trick by bringing Getafe back to La Liga and now has the Madrid side in the top half of the table. Alaves, meanwhile, remain joint bottom.

Ayestaran’s unlucky 13
Only Las Palmas’s inferior goal difference is keeping Alaves off the bottom as Paco Ayestaran stretched the worst ever losing streak for a La Liga coach to 13 games.

That run combines his final days at Valencia and his first six matches with the Canary Islanders.

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Whether he gets the chance to snap the streak at Real Sociedad next weekend remains very much in doubt.

Baston back on the scoresheet
Thirteen months on since his last league goal, Swansea City’s club record signing found the net again. Unfortunately for the Swans, it was for Malaga.

Borja Baston ended his barren run in style to cap a comeback for the Andalusians to beat Deportivo la Coruna 3-2 and move off the foot of the table.

Baston was a hot prospect when Swansea splashed out £15.5 million ($20.5 million, 17.4 million euros) for him in the summer of 2016 after netting 19 goals for Eibar.

However, his career has been in freefall since and he had been publicly criticised by Malaga boss Michel for his attitude in recent weeks before coming off the bench to be the hosts’ hero on Sunday.

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