La Review: Big Two make move to the top as another coach bites the dust

Tim Stannard reflects on a weekend of Spanish action which saw Real Madrid and Barcelona take the outright lead...

From the highs of a Luis Suárez hat-trick and a one-man show from Keylor Navas to the lows of the entire concept of the goalless draw between Las Palmas and Villarreal, the latest round of La Liga was a fairly fun affair. The Big Two moved to the top of the table on their own, but showed that there are still weak spots for the rest of the chasing gang to exploit. Here’s what else grabbed La Liga Loca’s eye.

Keylor Navas was good. But Celta were even better

As a wise AS gently points out in its match report, Real Madrid may not quite have the balance of a perfectly poised seal on a beach ball quite yet, but it does have the points and record to keep the side at the top of the table. Marca are a little less subtle and yell “Number One and Leader!” from the front page, although the steady head of Santiago Segurola notes inside the pages that “Madrid still give off worrying signals”.

The Celta Vigo game was a heck of a test for Rafa the Gaffer, and it was one that was only just passed with a 3-1 win thanks to a truly epic performance from Keylor Navas. The first half was a more than decent one from Madrid with the side taking a 2-0 lead that made sure Celta were constantly “against the tide,” as Eduardo Berizzo put it, but for much of the game Madrid’s Costa Rican keeper was busier than a Barcelona club lawyer.

This is despite Celta being down a man for the last half an hour. As is often the case, Real Madrid and Navas dominate the headlines, but a lot of the plaudits must again go to Celta Vigo. While some media may say that Madrid are still not quite right, that narrative takes a little bit away from a Galician side that is still one of the best in La Primera this season.

Barcelona still Las Palmas-leaky at the back

Well, the refrain of ‘Boring, boring, Barca!’ that LLL would sometimes mutter during more mean-spirited moments is no more. This is a Barcelona side that is wonderfully generous at the back, seemingly delighting in giving opposition sides head starts, but mesmeric up front.

While it is true they have three of the greatest forwards in the game, the drip, drip of sloppy goals being conceded is a bit of a worry. The 12 conceded so far this season is only nine fewer than Barcelona let in over the entirety of last year’s campaign. The defensive record is worse than of Real Sociedad, Sporting and Málaga, three teams that are towards the wrong end of the table. To put it bluntly, Barca has a world class attack, but a Las Palmas-level back four. And that cannot go well over a whole season.

Barcelona to appeal Mascherano dismissalSuarez is invaluable, says Luis Enrique

Simeone lauds classic display from Rojiblancos

An Atlético Madrid all with the traditional hustle and bustle overcame a Valencia side that was all with the kerfuffle at the back for the two first half strikes from Jackson Martinez and Yannick Carrasco.

Indeed, Diego Simeone announced that it was one of the best performances in some time. The big plus was the continued rise of Carrasco, who is helping to add extra width and dynamism to the attack and cover some of the ground that Antoine Griezmann used to take up. The ever enthusiastic and usually tipsy Calderón crowd were even singing his name to warm the cockles of the newcomer’s heart.

Simeone pleased with Atletico progressCarrasco thrilled with Atletico match-winner

Sevilla follow prophesy of a Getafe hammering

On Friday, Prophet Unai predicted that the following day’s clash with Getafe would be a “good day in front of our fans.” To be fair, the Sevilla boss has been around along enough to know that whenever Getafe get a decent result - like last week against Las Palmas - the team rolls over in the next, like a portly dog climbing two flights of stairs. Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico did not have a shot to save in a 5-0 rout at the Sánchez Pizjuán, a game that was plumped up with three penalties but produced a hat-trick for Kevin Gameiro.

“Nobody has asked me about this, the penalties were because we were in their area,” noted Emery after the match, leading his own press conference. Although Sevilla lost out to Manchester City in the Champions League late on, the performance seems to have given the side a much needed boost in confidence along with a striker in a sweet spot and some sterling leadership from Ever Banega in the midfield.

Granada continue to be own worst enemy 

There are signs of life stirring for Granada, but self-destruction appears to be an issue for the Andalusians. Last Monday they were 3-2 up at Sporting before losing the lead in the final seconds. On Saturday a bustling start saw the home side take the lead against Betis, before a ludicrous handball from Rubén Perez gave away a penalty. “He apologised to the team for that,” revealed boss José Ramón Sandoval. 

Rayo will never change their spots

That’s the kind of result that Paco Jémez can use to justify his team playing at full attacking pelt, no matter the opposition. Rayo shook off the disappointment in the Camp Nou by going for Espanyol in Vallecas and grabbing a 3-0 win where the opposition were barely in the game. Striker Javi Guerra is turning out to be a fine signing too, with the veteran striker popping in six this season after a move from Cardiff.

Real Sociedad win more than enough for Levante

LLL thought that managerial changes might be the post-match chatter at the close of Levante's match against Real Sociedad clash, but it didn't expect the news to concern the home team. Lucas Alcaraz was fired around midnight on Sunday after a 4-0 home defeat to Real Sociedad left Levante stuck at the bottom of the table with just six points from nine games. 

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