First falls for Barca and Atleti

La Liga week 9 roundup 

The biggest news from this week’s La Liga action no doubt comes from the top of the table, with both champions Barcelona and cup-holders Atlético Madrid losing their 100% starting records to the season. Both sides went into gameweek 9 looking to equal Real Madrid’s record of longest winning streak to begin a season, which they achieved in 1968/69 with nine opening match victories. However, Real’s record stays in tact for another year, with their two great rivals failing to earn three points this week as Barcelona drew 0-0 away to Osasuna and Atleti losing 1-0 away at Espanyol.

Neymar falls to tough Osasuna challenge as Barca lose 100% record

Neymar falls to tough Osasuna challenge as Barca lose 100% record

Barcelona welcomed the return of Leo Messi, whose services they survived without in their last league outing, with Neymar, Tello, and Alexis stepping up to the plate, in particular. The nippy Argentine was only fit for the bench however, but did replace Xavi on 68 minutes. The starting front three of Neymar, Pedro, and Fábregas was no match for Osasuna’s Alejandro Arribas and Jordan Loties, who provided the backbone to a sturdy Osasuna performance throughout the 90 minutes.

Really though, the story of this 0-0 should not be ‘Barca fail to win’ but more of Osasuna’s excellent efforts bearing fruition. Their back four and midfield pairing of Lolo and Francisco Silva worked tirelessly all evening and matched the mighty Catalans for the entirity of the match. Osasuna kept Barcelona scoreless for the first time in 64 league matches (0-0 draw away to Villarreal in January 2012). Coach Javi García said after the game that the draw felt like a victory, being the first team to stop Barcelona from gaining all three points, and certainly has plenty to build on from this performance. Unfortunately for García, Rayo Vallecano’s victory coupled with Valladolid’s late comeback to earn a point against Sevilla means that Osasuna remain in the relegation zone. With 29 games left to play, this won’t worry the Navarrans too much after being one point better off this morning than what most would have thought they would be.

While Barcelona fell to a stalemate, their unbeaten record still remains intact, which is more than what can be said for Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Los Colchoneros traveled to El Prat knowing they could have gone outright top of the league after Barcelona had just drawn in Pamplona. Perhaps a mixture of the international break, nerves, or the decision to leave Arda Turan on the bench got to Atleti, but in truth they were off the pace against Espanyol.

David López, Sidnei, and Héctor Moreno gave Diego Costa a lot to worry about, as the Catalans’ defence was tough both physically and mentally. Everybody knows what type of player Diego Costa is now, and the Espanyol defensive unit had done their homework, limiting Costa to creating but a few chances, with barely as much as a whiff for himself. Much like Osasuna halting one of the big boys before them, Espanyol were another well-drilled machine, equipped with the know-how to stop Atleti taking both an unexpected and expected stranglehold on the league – unexpected if considered before the season began, but certainly expected before kick off.

Espanyol celebrate after their goal to beat high-flying Atleti

Espanyol celebrate after their goal to beat high-flying Atleti

Across town to the Bernabéu boys, however, there’s a completely different chant. The margin for error that the eventual winners of a La Liga title has been absolutely tiny in recent years, and that’s why Real Madrid are delighted to be welcomed back into the title hunt now, apparently.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are not yet the finished product; they’re still learning the Italian’s style and still discovering who they are now in a post-Mourinho world. They’re improving though, and certainly looked a dangerous unit against a Málaga side who were saved time and time again by their outstanding goalkeeper Willy Caballero (Willy Gentleman, if you want to translate his name from Spanish to English.)

Yet still, there are many positives for Los Blancos from this gameweek. Spanish sports daily AS’s Sunday edition claimed that this week was “an eight-point victory” for Real Madrid, adding in the points dropped by rivals Barca and Atleti. Elsewhere, Álvaro Morata is a youngster who has already become a fan favourite, with Madridistas admiring his work rate as well as his tremendous ability. Gareth Bale also got some minutes on the pitch this week, and earned the penalty for their second goal.

On the other end of the community of Madrid, Getafe have all the reason to be delighted with themselves. Luis García Plaza’s men defeated Granada 2-0 in Andalucía thanks to a Murillo own-goal and an on-fire Pedro León strike. A quick look at the form table taking the last six games into account puts Getafe level with Atletico Madrid, two points ahead of Real Madrid, and only two behind Barcelona. However, El Geta did probably have an easier six game run than their local rivals at least, and their great form will be tested in the coming weeks with games against Athletic, Villarreal, Valencia, and Atletico Madrid coming up. Their amazing form has them sitting in 5th spot right now, level on points with Athletic, and only one point outside the Champions League spots.

At the wrong end of the table, things are not looking good for Almería. The newly promoted side have been quite unlucky in games this season so far, faltering in the dying moments of games have dropped them eight points so far this campaign, leaving them at the foot of the table with only three to their name. A loss this weekend to fellow strugglers Rayo Vallecano thanks to this unbelievable free kick from centre half Alex Gálvez means they’re still searching for their first Primera División victory this term. Next month they face Valladolid (home) and Osasuna (away), two games against teams near enough to them in the table that the southerners will be hoping to gain points from and kick-start their season. At this early stage though, things are bleak in Almería.

Alex Gálvez's perfect free-kick ensured Almería stay bottom, Rayo win two in a row

Alex Gálvez’s perfect free-kick ensured Almería stay bottom, Rayo win two in a row

La Liga week 9 results in full:

Almería 0-1 Rayo Vallecano, Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Villarreal, Celta Vigo 0-1 Levante, Espanyol 1-0 Atlético Madrid, Granada 0-2 Getafe, Osasuna 0-0 Barcelona, Real Betis 1-2 Elche, Real Madrid 2-0 Málaga, Real Valladolid 2-2 Sevilla, Valencia 1-2 Real Sociedad


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