It was the big Madrid derby this weekend in La Liga and it produced a decisive outcome as Real Madrid leapfrogged their city rivals in the battle to at least take the fight to Barcelona. With the Catalans dropping points, it was close to the perfect weekend for Los Blancos and they are now at least back in with a sniff as they aim to deny Barca back-to-back league titles and a 4th crown in 5 years. At the other end, La Liga Expert went on the road in Valladolid for a relegation six-pointer involving surprise strugglers Villarreal.
Here was the best of the action on match-day 23 in the 2018/19 Spanish Primera Division:
La Liga Match Day 23 Results, Expected Goals & Highlights
Friday 8th February 2019
Real Valladolid 0-0 Villarreal (xG 0.54-1.11)
Saturday 9th February
Getafe 3-1 Celta Vigo (xG 2.36-0.26)
Atletico Madrid 1-3 Real Madrid (xG 1.11-1.38)
Espanyol 2-1 Rayo Vallecano (xG 2.1-0.91)
Girona 0-2 Huesca (xG 2.33-0.9)
Sunday 10th February
Leganes 3-0 Real Betis (xG 1.82-0.15)
Valencia 0-0 Real Sociedad (xG 0.97-0.36)
Sevilla 2-2 Eibar (xG 1.17-0.84)
Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Barcelona (xG 1.74-0.43)
Monday 11th February 2019
Alaves 2-0 Levante (xG 1.79-0.08)
Links lead to Youtube highlights via the official La Liga channel and may contain ads.
4 VAR Calls but 3 Points & 3 Goals for Los Blancos
— footballespana (@footballespana_) February 11, 2019
Saturday was a very significant day in the 2018/19 title race and also in the emergence of VAR in La Liga. A Madrid derby which threw up a series of extremely marginal calls highlighted how the technology will not end the controversy or debate in football. Atletico Madrid felt they got a raw deal and somewhat petulantly tweeted a series of still-frames from their official account which appeared to show how they had been wronged in the game.
However in truth, Real Madrid were worthy winners and the debate over the borderline decisions perhaps unfairly took away the attention from their most polished performance and best result under Solari. Surprise calls such as putting his faith in the likes of Lucas Vazquez and Sergio Reguilón have paid off and Real look much more like their old Champions League winning selves.
As for Atleti, it was a bitter blow and one that further highlights problems that Diego Simeone has struggled to find an answer too. Thomas Lemar, who let’s not forget cost €60 million last summer, again failed to deliver. Alvaro Morata scored one brilliantly taken goal that was chalked off for offside but it won’t be lost on anyone that Los Rojiblancos have lost both games since his arrival, having gone 19 without defeat prior to that.
Uninspired Barcelona held at San Mames
Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Barcelona; Review pic.twitter.com/KV3QRXbDg1
— Dembele The Best (@BVK_FCBARCELONA) February 11, 2019
Barcelona would have fancied extending their lead and perhaps even knocking Real Madrid firmly out of the title race this weekend if the Madrid derby had produced a different outcome. However in the end Los Blancos closed to 6 points off the top after Ernesto Valverde’s side were held to a 0-0 draw at San Mames. Athletic Bilbao put in an impressive showing, restricting the defending champions to very few opportunities and could easily have won the game were it not for some excellent saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Sevilla’s Late comeback masks problems for Machin
— Yo soy Javi (@Yo_soy_Javi77) February 10, 2019
It wasn’t a good weekend for Sevilla but it would have been a lot worse had they not scored twice in the dying moments to salvage a point against an impressive Eibar side. The Basques will wonder how they didn’t see the game out with 10 men while Pablo Machin might just be pondering on what he needs to do to convince the Sevilla fans, who at times directed boos in his direction. A few away wins would help. A sixth Europa League crown would be better but winning Europe’s secondary competition is not as simple as Sevilla have made it look over the past 15 years and the situation at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is one to keep an eye on.
Match Day 23 in Numbers
- Atletico have now won just 1 of their last 18 home Madrid derbies in La Liga.
- Saturday’s 3-1 defeat was only their 2nd loss at the Wanda Metropolitano in the league (they also lost 2-0 to Espanyol last season).
- Barcelona created just 0.43 Expected Goals away to Athletic Bilbao. Only once over the past 12 months have they created less in any competition (away to Atletico Madrid earlier this season).
- Huesca have kept 3 straight clean sheets, having conceded in all of their first 20 league games this term.
- Villarreal have now drawn 9 of their last 15 matches in La Liga, winning only 1.
It’s a European week with Real Madrid heading to Ajax in the Champions League before no fewer than four Spanish teams begin their Europa League knockout stage campaigns. La Liga returns next weekend with winnable home games for Barcelona and Los Blancos while Atleti face another derby, this time away to Rayo. Sunday’s game between Villarreal and Sevilla also looks a big one at both ends of the table.
Check out our new feature of the best Spanish football podcasts for some reflection on the week’s events around Spain.