Madrid, Oct 4 (IANS) La Liga goes into the second international break of the season after a weekend of upsets that leaves us with three teams tied at the top of the table. Here are a few things we learned this weekend in Spain.
1. BARCA WITHOUT A RUDDER
Following last week’s Champions League thrashing at Benfica, it was generally assumed that defeat to Atletico Madrid would be Ronald Koeman’s swansong at the club and there were no noises emitted to the contrary from the Barca boardroom.
However, before the game, which Barca duly lost 2-0, club president Joan Laporta gave Koeman the public backing that had been so conspicuous by its absense in recent weeks, and rather than being shown the door, the Dutchman now looks likely to continue, reports Xinhua.
More cynical commentators believe that Laporta’s show of support is because none of his candidates for the hotseat fancy taking over what it virtually an impossible job right now, and so Koeman limps on at least until the next defeat.
2. ATLETICO MADRID MAKE EXPERIENCE SHOW
As for the game against Atletico, it was typical of Barca’s recent displays. The young players that Koeman has promoted injected some life into proceedings, but predictably lacked experience in key aspects of the game. Atletico, with old heads such as former Barca striker Luis Suarez, were able to exploit those weaknesses and claim a relatively straightforward win.
The big problem for Barca, however, is not that the youngsters are inexperienced; it’s that players with a wealth of experience such as Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique (and to an extent Frenkie de Jong) were just as guilty of mistakes as their proteges, and that is a much tougher issue to resolve.
3. ESPANYOL EXPOSE REAL MADRID’S WEAKNESS
Espanyol had only beaten Real Madrid three times in their last 32 meetings before Sunday’s 2-1 win over the La Liga leaders, and Real Madrid traveled to Barcelona as clear favorites for another three points.
However, Victor Moreno’s recently promoted side further exposed the problems that have seen Real Madrid leaking too many goals, with an uncoordinated in defense in front of a midfield that is not offering enough cover. Both Raul de Tomas and Aleix Vidal exposed big gaps in the Madrid defense and this time the creativity of Vinicius and Karim Benzema could not save Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Ancelotti will hope to have full-backs Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal fit after the international break, but given their injury records, the duo’s long-term presence can’t be relied on.
4. MICHEL AND MORENO SURVIVE, LOPEZ SACKED
Getafe coach Michel Gonzalez and Granada’s Robert Moreno looked to be odds-on to be sacked if their sides lost their respective games against Real Sociedad and Sevilla, but Getafe drew 1-1 in a game they were unlucky not to win, and Real Sociedad boss Imanol Alguacil even gave Michel his public support afterwards. Meanwhile, Granada took an early chance and clung on against high-flying Sevilla, and that should give Moreno a bit of breathing space.
However, Levante’s 1-0 defeat to Mallorca brought an end to Paco Lopez’s long stint as first-team coach after he was sacked after almost four seasons in charge. Injuries and a low budget haven’t helped Levante this season, but the feeling is that they are not doing as well as a side containing players such as Jorge de Frutos, Gonzalo Melero and Jose Luis Morales should be doing, and maybe a new man can freshen things up.