Would you believe it if someone told you that Barcelona would be sitting outside the top-five of the La Liga in 2020? Well, that’s how this year has been — pretty unbelievable and uncertain. The same rules apply to the Spanish top flight too. As Champions Real Madrid struggled to continue where they left off last season, it’s another Reale who have stepped up to their role. The club from the blue half of Sociedad sit atop the La Liga table after 11 games played with a slender lead of one point. Well, it’s the goals that have brought the usually non-Champions League club glory as Real Sociedad have managed to score 22 goals since the beginning of the season — the most in the first division of Spain.
Following closely upon them are Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. One wouldn’t argue about the fact that Atletico have actually been the best side in La Liga this season and are just missing out on the top spot because of 2 games less played after the late Champions League run last season. The only unbeaten side in Spanish football right now, the Rojiblancos are also the best defensive side in the league with just 2 goals conceded in 9 games — Incredible!
As Villarreal and Sevilla surround the Champions on the points table, the reigning holders Real Madrid sit 4th with 3 failed attempts to win in the last 2 weeks. A lot of people have branded Madrid as a Robinhood, who takes the points from the bigger sides and hands it to the bottom clubs. With just 5 wins from the first 10 games, Real need a lot more to topple Atletico and Sociedad at the very top.
As promoted side Cadiz sits above Barcelona in the 6th spot, it cannot get more worse for the Catalans. A misfiring Lionel Messi, a new coach who doesn’t know his best formation and constant injuries to important squad members have literally put Barca in a position where they have never been in their lifetime. Before last week’s win over Osasuna, Barcelona had the same number of wins as the number of losses this season. Levels have really fallen big time.
Amidst this unusual season in Spain in an unusual year of 2020, we take a look at some top games which were played in the last week, Matchday 11, in the La Liga 2020–21.
Real Sociedad 1–1 Villarreal
Two of the top-five sides of the points table met at the Reale Arena as Sociedad were held for a 1–1 draw by Villarreal in a very entertaining fixture on Sunday. A win could have taken the hosts 3 points clear at the top of the table, but Imanol Alguacil Barrenetxea would take the draw with open arms considering they played a very good side in the form of Villarreal — a side which is being revolutionized by Unai Emery.
The visitors played exactly like a typical Unai Emery side as they made the best of the low number of opportunities and breathing space that was awarded by Sociedad to them on Sunday night. Despite having just 45% of the possession, Villarreal had more shots (10) than Real and managed to score with 1 of the 2 shots on target. A very compact and expected performance by the away side.
While Villarreal could be credited with good praises, it was certainly a missed opportunity for Sociedad. Not only would a win take them 3 points clear at the top of the table, but it could also be a huge statement in the La Liga to beat a stringent and disciplined Villarreal side at home. Nevertheless, with the points being shared, there were at least no sad faces at the end of the game.
Valencia 0–1 Atletico Madrid
In another part of the Spanish countryside, two historically giant clubs met this past weekend too. It was the fallen giants Valencia hosting the league’s best side right now, Atletico Madrid at the Mestalla. Coming up against Diego Simeone’s men, the mood in the Valencia camp would have been eerie for the past week or so, and it was clearly evident in their performance too.
As the home side let Atletico take charge in the contest, they could only drop back and park the bus expecting to earn a point with a 0–0 draw if the Gods favour them. To a certain extent, Valencia did the job really well for 80 minutes. It was really commendable for the bottom-half club to stand still and stop the rampant Atletico from scoring for almost 90% of the game.
But it was an overload on the brink of the 80th minute as extensive pressure from the visitors resulted in Toni Lato putting the ball into his own net. After the own goal, Atletico just had to keep possession and mind the Valencia players running between the lines. The 0–1 victory was a testament to Atletico’s season so far as the top-two side kept their 9th clean sheet of the season already with just 11 games played.
If there is any club which looks absolute favourite to win the La Liga this season in just the first phase of the tournament — it’s none other than Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona 4–0 Osasuna
However poor a club has been performing in any edition of the domestic league, every set of supporters expect their team to beat the rivals if not every club in the competition. The same feelings were on show when Barcelona took a trip to the Wanda Metropolitano last weekend but ended up losing 1–0 to Atletico Madrid. This created heavy outrage among the club fans as #KoemanOut started trending on Twitter almost immediately.
With a week of constant trolling and introspection, it didn’t get any bigger than this against Osasuna — mainly because of one event which shook the world. Diego Armando Maradona, known as one of the best players ever to grace the game, passed away at the age of 60. The relation with Barcelona was such that fellow Argentine Lionel Messi is revered as the successor to Maradona in many aspects. The game against Osasuna was not only a must win but also an emotional affair.
An unexpected scorer opened the account for Barcelona as Martin Brathwaite slid the ball past Sergio Herrera to make it 1–0 in the 29th minute. Antoine Griezmann doubled the lead in the 42nd minute as the home side went into the half-time winning 2–0 at the Camp Nou. After Philippe Coutinho’s trademark goal in the 57th minute, it seemed to be a heaven’s call as Lionel Messi scored in the 73rd minute and flashed a Nevell’s Old Boys Maradona jersey to pay tribute to the grand star.
The 4–0 win helped Barcelona make it to the top seven in the La Liga, but challenges await as it is no news that consistency has been Barca’s weak point this season.
Real Madrid 1–2 Deportivo Alaves
After the eventful and entertaining fixtures mentioned above, the biggest game (or as we may call it — an upset) was the loss of the Champions Real Madrid to Deportivo Alaves at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium. A crazy fact going into this game was that a Deportivo Alaves Win was priced at 9.50 odds in the betting world, which meant that the result would have returned an amount which was 10x of the investment. If you are an active bettor trying his hand in the gambling industry, do take a look at Mighty Tips where experts analyze La Liga and all the top world football games every day from a betting perspective, thereby providing betting tips for all sorts of audience.
Coming back to the debacle which took place at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium, it could be called nothing short of a miracle for Alaves — but a very well deserved one. As Madrid possessed the ball for more than 2/3rds of the entire game time, Alaves punished them on the counter time and again scoring 2 goals in the first 50 minutes — the first one coming on the 5th minute mark.
What’s shocking is that the same Real Madrid side, which thrashed Inter Milan in the midweek, took 86 minutes, 20 shots and 8 shots on target to score a single goal and eventually losing the game at home to a very unlikely opponent. To go deeper into the game’s tactics, Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane rotated his squad a bit which brought about changes in the back-line and the midfield which could have been the reason for the unsettling nature of the Champions in their own backyard.
Nevertheless, this was the 2nd loss in 3 games for the Galacticos and means that they have now failed to win a La Liga game in 2 weeks’ time. With city rivals Atletico moving closer to the title, it’s high time Zidane and his men wake up and take the battle to the clubs above them on the points table.