Quique Setien kicked off with a win at FC Barcelona, while two goals from Casemiro saw Real Madrid beat Sevilla 2-1 on a weekend when the top two in Spain pulled further away from the teams below them in the table. Here are what we learned last weekend in La Liga.
1. No instant miracle with Setien
New Barcelona coach Quique Setien saw his side make hard work of beating a tough, well-organized Granada in his debut match in charge. Barcelona dominated 80 percent of possession and completed over 1,000 passes in the game, but struggled to create clear chances and it was not until their rivals were reduced to 10 men with just over 20 minutes left to play that Lionel Messi made the breakthrough.
Barca fans will be happy to see the new coach give a chance to young midfielder Riqui Puig, who had a hand in Messi’s goal, but may have to wait until next weekend’s trip to Valencia to see how Setien has changed things from predecessor Ernesto Valverde.
2. Casemiro on target for Real Madrid
Real Madrid have midfielder Casemiro to thank for their three points at home to Sevilla on Saturday afternoon. In a tight game, the midfielder’s first goal was a neat clip over the keeper, while his winning goal was a header any striker would have been proud of.
With Gareth Bale struggling for form and fitness and Karim Benzema injured, Luka Jovic has yet to find his touch in front of goal – though he did set up Casemiro’s first – but Madrid’s virtue is that they have plenty of players able to find the net, as the Brazilian showed at the weekend.
3. No goals, no glory for Atletico Madrid
How Diego Simeone must have wished he had a side packed full of players able to score after watching his Atletico Madrid side slip to a 2-0 defeat away to Eibar.
Atletico had won on their previous five visits to the Ipurua stadium, but were undone by Eibar’s solid defense and two goals from corners. Record signing Joao Felix continues to struggle, and with Diego Costa out injured, Atletico are missing former striker Antoine Griezmann more than ever.
Unless Atletico are able to close a mooted deal for Edinson Cavani before the end of the month, their season is in danger of ending in disappointment.
4. Even more of a two horse race in Spain
Apart from Barca and Real Madrid, it wasn’t a good weekend for sides near the top of the table, as Atletico Madrid and Sevilla both suffered defeats, while Real Sociedad were hammered 3-0 by Real Betis, and Valencia’s climb up the table ended in a shock 4-1 defeat away at Mallorca.
Only Getafe claimed all three points with their 3-0 win away to struggling Leganes.
The weekend’s results leave Barca and Real Madrid eight points clear of Atletico and Sevilla, making the battle for the title more of a two-horse race than ever. By contrast, the race for the other European places looks as if it will provide drama right to the end. Enditem