5 Talking Points from Matchday 28 as LaLiga Restarts

LaLiga matchday 28 review

The Spanish top flight restarted following the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday night with the Seville derby. All 20 teams have now played once and these were the results from LaLiga matchday 28:

LaLiga Matchday 28 Results

Thursday 11th June 2020

Sevilla 2-0 Real Betis

Friday 12th June 2020

Granada 2-1 Getafe

Valencia 1-1 Levante

Saturday 13th June 2020

Espanyol 2-0 Alaves

Celta Vigo 0-1 Villarreal

Leganes 1-2 Real Valladolid

Mallorca 0-4 Barcelona

Sunday 14th June 2020

Athletic Club 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Real Madrid 3-1 Eibar

Real Sociedad 1-1 Osasuna

Links lead to the official Youtube highlights.

5 Talking Points as LaLiga Returns

by Robert Barter (@RobertBarter16)

Super Sevilla

Getting the season back underway was a trip to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán for El Gran Derbi, and the match did not disappoint for the hosts. While Rubi’s Real Betis offered little in an attacking sense, Julen Lopetegui’s side were faultless throughout and thoroughly deserved their 2-0 victory.

Having stagnated at Real Madrid and been treated incredibly unfairly by the Spanish FA, Lopetegui has done a superb job of rebuilding his reputation with his Sevilla sitting comfortably in third place, four points clear of their expected closest challengers Atlético Madrid.

Despite sharing the minority of possession Sevilla’s attack troubled their opposition time and again, Munir and the mercurial Lucas Ocampos, picked up shrewdly by Monchi last July, being the chief protagonists.

After controlling the first half, it was Ocampos who broke the deadlock with a well struck penalty in the 56th minute before six minutes later teeing up Fernando through a brilliant piece of skill to wrap up the victory. Having made an impact on the Argentina setup last October this is undoubtedly his breakthrough season, this game bringing his season tally to 11 goals with a further three assists.

With Champions League football looking all but certain on their current form and with a coach of undoubted talent in control this Sevilla surge may only continue to improve. With Real Sociedad and Atlético Madrid hot on their tail, games opposite Levante and Valladolid across the next four matchdays may allow them to extend their advantage, while the game against league leaders Barcelona provides encouragement based on their impressive home form.

One step closer for Abelardo

In spite of what seemed an impossible task upon his appointment Abelardo is one step closer to an unthinkable rescue with Espanyol. A baptism of fire in January proved nothing of the sort when they held Barcelona to a draw before following that up with a win at the Estadio Cerámica. Nine points from the following eight games followed, including brave points won on the road against Sevilla, as well as home draws to Athletic of Bilbao and Simeone’s Madrid.

Defeats suffered on matchday 28 for fellow strugglers Leganés, Celta Vigo, Mallorca and Eibar has suddenly brought Espanyol to within three points of 17th place despite sitting dead bottom and having won only 10 points upon the Asturian’s appointment.

The 2-0 home victory on Saturday now has Los Perequitos rightfully dreaming of survival. In a circumstance that has come full circle, Alavés, the side beaten comprehensively in Cornellà found themselves in similar territory in December 2017 when they too turned to Abelardo. That season, having been appointed with the team 20th in the table, he guided them safely to 14th. While 14th with this Espanyol outfit seems beyond even the reach of Abelardo, an escape of any kind would certainly be the greatest of his career.

Another Simeone slip-up

Were it not for the crazy night at Anfield, this season may even have been the last for Diego Simeone at Atlético Madrid. But for an exhilarating Champions League tie and an unfortunate Spanish Super Cup final defeat, the campaign has been an extremely underwhelming one, as Sunday evening’s stalemate at Bilbao’s San Mamés ensured their domestic fortunes have carried on in the same vein from before football’s suspension.

Los Colchoneros have lost one game less than the league leaders and only one more than their neighbours who sit second. The issue stems from the fact that 13 of the 28 league games played to date have ended in draws.

Big summer departures would undoubtedly prove hard to replace but few would have foreseen the difficulty they would face in trying to fill the voids left by stalwarts Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godín. João Félix has done a commendable, if at times uninspiring, job of filling the prolific Frenchman’s boots but the side from the capital are decidedly easier to break down than in season’s past.

Getafe’s unlikely defeat on the road at Granada and the points dropped by Real Sociedad when hosting Osasuna has done them a favour, but with Sevilla’s exceptional derby performance and Villarreal picking up three points, Atlético are in serious danger of missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time since 2012. Looking ahead, trips to Camp Nou, Getafe’s Alfonso Pérez and Balaídos offer some cause for some concern.

A League Apart

With Sevilla seemingly having taken the baton from Atlético as arguably Spain’s third best team the difference in quality to the big two appears the biggest in several seasons. Barcelona’s trip to the island of Mallorca on Saturday night has sprung hope into the Catalans that Quique Setién’s intricate ideas are finally being understood. But for two saves made by Marc-André Ter Stegen the visitors were hardly troubled and controlled the vast majority of the contest.

And while Messi was his usual self, grabbing a goal as well as assisting Barcelona’s second and third, his involvement in play and general over-dependence appeared slightly less obvious. Griezmann has not settled as quickly as he would like, but the return of Luis Suárez and glimmers of quality from Martin Braithwaite have allayed fears of Messi-dependence rearing its head once more. The 0-4 victory pulled them five points clear, although it would be reduced back to two less than 24 hours later.

Sunday’s second game saw Real Madrid welcome Eibar to their training complex in what was an expected victory for the hosts. Much like the side they are chasing down, they were largely untroubled from start to finish, but for one or two moments of nerves displayed by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, as they ran out eventual 3-1 winners.

Much like the Barcelona/Suárez situation, the return of Eden Hazard will only bolster their title aspirations, as with arguably the easier run in with ten games left to play, we have the most exciting LaLiga title race on our hands since the 2016/17 campaign.

Villarreal Resurgence?

Lastly on to Villarreal, whose well fought and deserved victory away at Celta Vigo saw them jump from 10th to 8th place in the table, and with the home hiccup from Sociedad and stutter from Atlético, Javier Calleja now finds his side only six points behind what seemed at the beginning of the season an unthinkable Champions League spot.

Despite enduring a tough last campaign, ultimately finishing 14th following a torrid first half of the season where they spent a total of eleven matchdays in the relegation zone, the acquisition of Raúl Albiol in the summer as well as Paco Alcácer in January has bred new life into a side that appeared floundering under a directionless coach.

The brand of football under Calleja this campaign has been easy on the eye and the second coming of Santi Cazorla having nearly lost his foot while side-lined with Arsenal has ensured Villarreal’s standing as the neutral’s favourite.

With favourable fixtures on the horizon opposite Mallorca and Granada there is plenty of reason to be optimistic around the Estadio Cerámica. With a squad full of high-calibre players and a prolific marksman leading the line there is reason to believe, with two or three wins in succession, that Calleja’s entertaining ‘Yellow Submarine’ could find themselves vying for Champions League football, eight years on from their last group stage appearance.

Next Up in LaLiga

The games keep coming thick and fast with no break between matchdays. Next up in La Liga, Sevilla travel to Levante while Real Betis host Granada on Monday night. Real Madrid’s clash with Valencia on Thursday night is perhaps the pick of the matchday 29 fixtures.

About Robert Barter 11 Articles
Football writer for LaLiga Expert & Zicoball.