Real Madrid moved to the top of La Liga after the 21st round of matches in Spain this weekend, as Barcelona lost in Valencia and Atletico Madrid once against failed to score. Here are some things we learned after this weekend’s football.
1. Possession isn’t everything
Barcelona’s 2-0 defeat to Valencia emphasized the failings that Quique Setien’s first two games in charge had hinted at: a failure to create chances despite dominating possession and a defense that is exposed on the break.
Barca had over 70 percent of possession at the Mestalla, but as well as their two goals, Valencia hit the woodwork, missed a penalty and saw Marc-Andre ter Stegen keep the score down with a string of impressive stops.
Setien is a believer in the merits of possession football, but his players were static and slow in their build-up, and worryingly for Barca, the coach doesn’t look keen to change his ways.
As an incisive Valencia showed on Saturday, there is more to football than just possession – you also need organization, directness and aggression.
2. Practical Real Madrid reaping the rewards
In sharp contrast to Barcelona, Real Madrid again showed they are willing and able to win ugly, and their 1-0 victory away to Valladolid took them three points clear at the top of La Liga.
With their strikers misfiring, it was once again left to a defender to score the vital goal, with Nacho’s effort proving the difference just as Raphael Varane had scored twice away to Getafe and Casemiro did the job against Sevilla.
It certainly wasn’t pretty from Zinedine Zidane’s men, whose goal again came from a set piece, but those goals are worth just as much as the most flowing attacking moves, something Zidane seems to appreciate more than the man now in charge at the Camp Nou.
3. Simeone nearing the end of the road?
It’s been a dreadful week for Atletico Madrid, who started with a 2-0 defeat to Eibar, followed that up with a Copa del Rey exit at the hands of third-tier Cultural Leonesa, and on Sunday were held to a 0-0 draw by struggling Leganes, who probably deserved more from the game.
Those results have seen Atletico coach Diego Simeone questioned for virtually the first time in his seven years in charge at the club, and while it seems unfair to doubt the man behind the best years in the club’s history, there is a case for saying the intensity that Simeone demands in every game and training session is finally taking its toll.
Next weekend sees his side travel to face Real Madrid, and the result at the Bernabeu could decide Simeone’s future at the end of this campaign.
4. Unacceptable behavior in Cornella
Athletic Bilbao striker Inaki Williams was the victim of racist abuse by a group of Espanyol fans who attended the game between the two sides at Espanyol’s home ground on Saturday.
The incident has been widely condemned by leaders in sport, society and politics, with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez voicing his disapproval and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) saying they will take disciplinary action despite the insults not being mentioned in the referee’s match report. Enditem