Five things we learned from La Liga
There’s no time for Andres Iniesta to rest, Betis are still the great entertainers, and Kevin Gameiro is making his case at Atletico Madrid. Here are five things we learned from the weekend in Spain:
Iniesta’s as important as ever
It is a sad truth that Andres Iniesta is approaching the end of a glorious career. The midfielder will be 34 this year and there have been reports in Spain that he has a huge offer on the table to go to China at the end of this season. But he remains such an important player to Barcelona that coach Ernesto Valverde felt unable to rest him for the tough 2-0 win at Eibar. That meant Philippe Coutinho started on the bench, despite the fact the Brazilian is ineligible for the Champions League and so Iniesta will definitely play against Chelsea on Tuesday, barring injury. “I thought it was the best thing for the team,” insisted Valverde.
Betis are brilliant fun
As if that was not already obvious. Quique Setien’s team had already been involved in a 4-4 draw, a 6-3 home defeat and a 5-3 win at city rivals Sevilla this season, among other results. On Sunday it was a 5-3 defeat against Real Madrid, after having been 2-1 up at half-time. There is no shame in losing to the defending European champions, but for all that Betis provide great entertainment, they may lack the consistency to overhaul the likes of Sevilla and Villarreal above them and qualify for Europe. “The difference between us and them is enormous and the fact we endangered them, coming back from 1-0 down, means we deserve huge credit,” said Setien. “There are defeats that are less painful, and I am satisfied with how we played.”
Gameiro cannot be forgotten
Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa are the two big stars in the Atletico Madrid attack, but Kevin Gameiro gave another reminder of his importance to coach Diego Simeone in the 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. The Frenchman came off the bench with Atleti looking flat in the final third, and promptly scored the opener — his fifth league goal of the season — before setting up Costa for the second. So could there be room for all three in the Atletico starting line-up? “I don’t know, you’d have to ask ‘Cholo’ (Simeone). He has lots of players to choose from. There is lots of competition for places, but I like that because you end up pushing yourself that bit more to score and help the team,” Gameiro said.
Seedorf has no magic wand
Clarence Seedorf was a great player, and is held in high regard for his achievements with Real Madrid in the late 1990s. His abilities as a coach are still unproven, though, and the Dutchman has a huge job on his hands at Deportivo La Coruna. After a 1-0 defeat at home against Betis on his debut last Monday, he saw his new charges lose 1-0 at Alaves on Saturday. They have now gone nine games without a win in total and are still in the relegation zone. The Depor players faced jeers and insults from the fans who had travelled to the Basque Country to watch them on Saturday. “I think the team is capable of reacting. We know what we have to improve, and after two matches things are clearer for me too,” said Seedorf.
There’s no stopping Girona
One of the least fashionable clubs to appear in Primera they may be, but Girona continue to impress on their debut top-flight campaign. A comfortable 3-0 win over Leganes confirmed that the Catalans are outside contenders for European qualification. That’s four straight home wins without conceding a goal now, and Girona’s record is the best ever at this stage of a season for a newcomer to La Liga, level with Numancia in 1999/2000. Further good news came as club captain Eloi Amagat was finally able to make his La Liga bow against Leganes after a long injury absence.
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