No Messi? No problem – La Liga week 8 round-upPosted: October 6, 2013
Barcelona faced a physical but struggling Real Valladolid side without the spearhead of their attack, Lionel Messi. At first it looked as though they may have missed the spirit of the nippy Argentine, with the visitors taking a surprise lead from a set piece, something that manager Tata Martino expressed disappointment about. However, the current leaders and champions were able to find their stride and stroll to a 4-1 victory with goals from Sanchez, Xavi, and Neymar.
Cristian Tello was handed a surprise start, with the likes of Iniesta and Pedro left on the bench. The youngster justified his selection in the first team with two assists, importantly for the first two goals, bringing his side from 1-0 down to 2-1 up. Elsewhere, Chilean star Alexis Sanchez was also able to step up to the plate and fill in the gaps that come with an injury to a player of such importance as Lionel Messi. The former Udinese winger scored the first and third goals in a game which, like Tello, he was given a rare starting position.
Valladolid aren’t the best of tests for a Barcelona-less Messi, but the Catalans can only beat whoever’s in front of them. Messi’s muscular problems have been a growing concern for all associated with the Spanish giants in recent years, and they will most likely have other games in the future where they’ll have to deal with his absence. This weekend against Valladolid, Sanchez, Tello, and new boy Neymar were the ones who stepped into the spotlight, ensuring Barca’s 100% start continues.
I try not to stick to La Liga’s top two, but Real Madrid‘s manner of victory this week again provides an interesting talking point. This isn’t a story about robbery, unlike week 6, but resilience. Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid seem to have problems with keeping up a high level of intensity and breaking teams down quickly enough. Against Levante, they encountered many problems which took them by surprise.
“It was not good from a tactical and technical point of view. We did not play fantastic football, but we deserved to win.” Ancelotti’s words post-match on Saturday night spoke about problems in his own team. Levante boss Joaquín Caparros said, “We played so well, apart from the last three or four minutes. It hurts to lose. The fact that (goalkeeper) Diego Lopez was one of their best players tells you a lot.”
With ninety minutes on the clock, it looked as though Real Madrid were succumbing to their second loss in a row, something that Los Blancos fans would find unacceptable, especially when they look at the league table and seeing their rivals Barcelona and Atleti potentially going eight points clear of them later in the weekend’s action. But fans’ favourites Alvaro Morata and Cristiano Ronaldo were able to stun the Valencian side with not one, but two sucker-punches in the 90th and 94th minutes to bring the points back to the capital.
Despite not playing their best for 90 minutes, Real Madrid had the confidence in their own ability to turn the game around and win in the dying moments. It didn’t matter how well Levante had played, how much they stifled their millionaire opponents. Ancelotti’s boys had the resilience to snatch it at the death, sparing the blushes of all at the Bernabéu.
Getafe have become one of the early season revelations in their tenth consecutive top flight campaign. After collecting a grand total of one point from their opening three fixtures, Getafe have gone on to win four of their last five games, with the only blotch in their copybook coming away to Real Madrid who beat them 4-1. Los Azulones’ most recent victory comes against a strong, albeit inconsistent, Real Betis side, who have yet to hit their stride in the same way they did last season. Pedro León opened his account with two fantastic goals this week against Pepe Mel’s team, as El Geta cruised to victory, going 3-0 up inside half an hour.
Lafita and Colunga have also been to thank for Getafe’s recent upturn in form from the attacking point of view. The pair have provided five goals between them, and although these aren’t great numbers for a winger and a striker (respectively), in their four wins, Luís García Plaza’s men have only let in two goals, paving the way for a steady consistency in picking up the victories that leave them only four points off a Champions League berth.
High-flying Athletic Bilbao faced another team in fine form, Valencia, over the weekend. Both teams are chasing European spots from early stages this season, and there was nothing to separate the sides in their San Mames reunion this weekend. Athletic came out with all guns blazing, determined to make amends for last week’s poor display against Granada, but in the second half struggled to defend properly, leaving gaps for Los Che to exploit, showing Ernesto Valverde still has some work to do on the defensive end of his team’s play. Both teams are now 6th (Athletic) and 7th (Valencia), on the same goal difference (zero), with only goals scored separating them.
Real Sociedad continue their poor form by falling foul to probably one of the most intriguing teams in the league, Rayo Vallecano. The Vallekanos gained their second win of the season against the Champions League side with relative comfort, as Sociedad were unable to sustain pressure on the home side’s goal to the point of forcing the issue and creating a chance to score. Rayo, on the other hand, were lucky enough to take all three points, as a last minute Jonathan Viera penalty could easily have not been given by the referee, with curiosities arising over the amount of contact that was made with the winger in the box. Rayo don’t care, however, as the result takes them off the bottom, demoting Almería to that place. Rayo and Almería go face-to-face in the next gameweek in what should be a tasty bottom of the table clash.