Five things we learned from La Liga
A Cristiano Ronaldo strop and two more dropped points signalled a bad weekend for Real Madrid as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid made up ground in the title race, whilst Athletic Bilbao and Valencia’s upturn in fortunes continued.
Here, AFP Sports looks at five things we learned from week six in La Liga.
– Zidane backed despite Ronaldo revolt
If there is one coach who could stand up to Ronaldo and come out on top it is Zinedine Zidane.
The Frenchman’s decision to replace the three-time World Player of the Year 18 minutes from time with Real leading 2-1 in Las Palmas backfired as the Canary Islanders equalised late on.
However, despite Ronaldo’s obvious disgust at the change, Zidane’s decision has been broadly backed with 83 percent of fans agreeing the coach was right in an online poll conducted by Madrid sports daily AS.
Madrid have now dropped four points in a week after a 16-game La Liga win streak was snapped by Villarreal on Wednesday. Yet, even in one of the rare occasions Zidane hasn’t been on the winning side, he showed the courage needed if he is to continue matching his glorious playing career as a coach.
– Atletico lack an aerial threat
Atletico boss Diego Simeone was full of praise for the impact made by Kevin Gameiro off the bench as the Frenchman teed up compatriot Antoine Griezmann for the only goal as Los Rojiblancos saw off 10-man Deportivo la Coruna to move to within two points of Madrid at the top.
However, Atletico’s inability to break down Depor’s deep-lying defence for 70 minutes highlighted an already recurring feature of their season.
It is no secret that Simeone’s first choice when signing a striker this summer was the return of Diego Costa to the Vicente Calderon and only when Chelsea refused to let him go did Atletico turn to Gameiro.
For all his attributes, Gameiro’s qualities are broadly similar to Griezmann’s and leave Atletico without the physical presence in the box Costa could have offered.
– Spain blessed at right-backSergi Roberto’s star at Barcelona continues to rise as he set up two of the Catalans’ five goals at Sporting Gijon.
Juanfran played a big part in Griezmann’s winner for Atletico, whilst Dani Carvajal produced another stellar display for Madrid as he rampaged forward from right-back.
Add in Barca target Hector Bellerin’s sensational performance in Arsenal’s 3-0 romp over Chelsea in the Premier League and new Spain boss Julien Lopetegui is truly spoiled for full-back choice when he names his squad for two crucial World Cup qualifiers against Italy and Albania later this week.
– V for victory and Voro at Valencia
Valencia sport daily Superdeporte’s front page on Thursday was a simple “V” pleading for the side’s first victory of the season under caretaker coach Voro following Pako Ayestaran’s sacking.
Four days later there are two Vs for Voro and Valencia as Alaves and Leganes have been beaten, albeit with some fortune.
Voro says he is at the behest of what Singaporean club owner Peter Lim wants, but his record of eight wins in 10 games during four caretaker spells is far better than any of the previous three coaches Lim has hired.
– Athletic win early battle for fourth
Villarreal moved into fourth on goal difference with a comfortable 3-1 win over Osasuna, but it is Athletic Bilbao who claimed first blood in a three-way battle for the fourth Champions League slot by sweeping aside Sevilla 3-1.
Sevilla’s quest for a top-four finish threatens to be undermined by a dreadful away record that has now failed to see them win on the road for 22 La Liga games.
And Athletic’s mixture of strength, ruthlessness and pace in a front three of Raul Garcia, Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams could give them the edge.
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