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La Liga: Four things we learned from Spain's Matchday 14

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Madrid, Nov 22 (IANS) Real Madrid moved back to the top of La Liga on Sunday as football returned after the international break, while Xavi Hernandez had a winning debut at Barcelona. Here are some things we learned over the past 48 hours in Spain.

1. Xavi has a lot of work to do

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FC Barcelona won their first game under Xavi Hernandez on Saturday night with a 1-0 victory over Espanyol, but nobody who saw the game can be under any illusions that the return of the former midfielder is going to be a quick fix.

Xavi showed faith in youth, with three teenagers in his starting 11, and in the first half, his side looked to be aggressive and pressed their rivals high up the field. However, in the second half they lost their shape and although a very questionable penalty gave them the win, with a bit more luck in front of goal Espanyol would have taken something from the game.

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The injuries don’t help, but Xavi has a lot of work to do.

2. Vinicius fulfilling his promise

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Real Madrid romped back to the top of La Liga with a 4-1 demolition of Granada, partly inspired by their Brazilian winger, who not only scored his eighth goal of the season but also provoked a red card for Granada defender, Monchu, who got his marching orders with 23 minutes left to play for a wild lunge at Vinicius’ knee.

The winger’s 56th-minute goal was his eighth league goal of the season — matching the number of league goals he scored in his first three years at the club and his improvement has come at exactly the right time, reports Xinhua.

Maybe Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has played a role in his improvement.

3. Bordalas makes his mark at Valencia

Real Sociedad lost the leadership after being held to a 0-0 draw at home to Valencia in a controversial game in which Valencia showed their cynical side. The team coached by former Getafe boss, Jose Bordalas committed a string of niggling fouls, most of which looked to break up Real Sociedad attacks in their own half, but they also wasted every second of time and were guilty of some blatant diving and play-acting to try and get rivals booked.

Valencia saw seven yellow cards in the game and it could have been more, but ironically it was Real Sociedad who ended up with a player sent off after Aritz Elustondo was shown the red card for reacting after being pushed violently to the floor by Daniel Wass just a couple of minutes after Maxi Gomez has body checked him in the ribs.

Valencia now play like Getafe did under Bordalas and referees have to be aware of their tactics.

4. Escriba pays the price at Elche

Fran Escriba became the fourth coach to be sacked this season after his side’s 3-0 defeat to Betis on Sunday afternoon, with the club showing him the door less than an hour after the final whistle.

Escriba will always be a hero at the club after leading them to promotion in 2013 in his first spell and then saving them from relegation in the last game of last season, but a run of six games without a win has now ended his second spell.

Given that Elche’s main ambition this season is to avoid relegation, the decision seems harsh, but it merely shows how important it is to a club’s economy to stay in the top-flight and that means patience is a virtue in short supply.

–IANS

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