5 Talking Points from Matchday 29 – Rubi running out of Lives

LaLiga matchday 29

The second round of fixtures following the restart is now complete. Here were the main talking points from LaLiga matchday 29 which featured convincing wins for the big two in Madrid but not much to  cheer for the sides at the bottom.

LaLiga matchday 29 results 

 Monday 15th June

Levante 1-1 Sevilla

Real Betis 2-2 Granada 

Tuesday 16th June

Getafe 0-0 Espanyol 

Villarreal 1-0 Mallorca 

Barcelona 2-0 Leganes 

Wednesday 17th June

Valladolid 0-0 Celta Vigo 

Eibar 2-2 Athletic Bilbao 

Osasuna 0-5 Atletico Madrid 

Thursday 18th June

Alaves 2-0 Real Sociedad 

Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia 

Links lead to the official Youtube highlights.

5 Talking Points from Matchday 29

by Robert Barter (@RobertBarter16

Improvement at last 

Following on from a deserved 2-0 home win over Alaves on Saturday, a win that allowed the side from Catalonia to dream of survival, Abelardo’s Espanyol travelled South to the outskirts of Madrid expecting defeat.  

Sat in fifth a win for Jose Bordelas and Getafe would have seen them leapfrog Real Sociedad into the final Champions League position with nine games to go. Having started on the back foot the dismissal of Bernardo Espinosa only added to the Espanyol inferiority complex but, despite enjoying only 30% of possession and having to defend for large portions of the game Abelardo’s side battled valiantly yet again to earn a point.  

Espanyol now sit on four points from a possible six since the restart and this point has crucially lifted them off the bottom following 13 arduous matchdays as the top-flights lowest placed team. Abelardo’s next two fixtures, at home to Levante and away to struggling Betis are winnable, while conversely victory attained by Atletico Madrid have dampened Getafe’s dream of Champions League football, the task looking more stressful for Bordelas with a surging Villarreal now only two points behind. 

Trouble at the bottom 

With the fortunes of Espanyol well and truly reversed thanks to the winter appointment of their miraculous coach, the future does not look as bright for the sides around them. 

Their point at the Coliseum has now resigned Leganes to last place, who fell to a routine defeat at Camp Nou on Tuesday night. The small club from the outskirts of Madrid have now only one win from their last seven, while Mallorca, Celta Vigo and Valladolid also failed register a victory 

In what could prove a season defining moment for either side Mallorca host Leganes on Friday evening, before Sunday will see Celta welcome Alaves to Balaidos.  

Should Mallorca and Espanyol win Leganes will likely be playing in the Segunda next season, while a win for Celta would ease the pressure considerably on coach Oscar Garcia. Eibar, the side in 16th, picked up an important point in what proved an exciting Basque derby as they hosted Bilbao, but their visit to the Coliseum on matchday 30 could see either side drag themselves further to safety, or dragged even deeper in to a relegation dogfight. The success of Osasuna and Granada, two of the newly promoted sides, has created an intriguing situation at the bottom this campaign, thrusting sides who would have thought themselves comfortable into a situation that could yet prove perilous.  

Order at last

December 22nd is a long time ago, and even longer for ‘Los Colchoneros’ who picked up their first away win since on Wednesday night as they travelled to El Sadar to take on Osasuna.  

Their travels since that 1-2 win at the Benito Villamarin have been horrendous, defeats to Eibar and Real Madrid before dull stalemates away at Espanyol, Valencia and Athletic Bilbao. Their win was effortless here, João Felix bagging a brace as further goals from Anfield hero Marcos Llorente, Alvaro Morata and Yannick Carrasco confirmed the route but, despite Sevilla, Getafe and Real Sociedad going winless, there is still cause for concern for Simeone.  

Of the 15 away games played domestically only four have been won, opposite Betis, Osasuna, Leganes and Mallorca, all four of whom sit 13th or lower. While uncharacteristic defeats suffered to Eibar and draws at Real Valladolid had Simeone and his side at risk of missing out on Champions League football.   

Sociedad’s unlikely defeat at Alaves and Sevilla’s stalemate at Levante has opened up a glorious opportunity from which Atletico must capitalise, as their next three games see them host relegation threatened Valladolid as well as Alaves and Levante, but trips to Camp Nou, the Coliseum and Balaidos threaten to throw their top four hopes in to jeopardy yet again. 

Desperation for Rubi 

Having gone eight without a win and with an incredible amount of pressure on head coach Rubi Real Betis hosted Granada at the Benito Villamarin where a defeat would likely have resigned the coach to dismissal. Somehow the victory did not come, the home side dominating proceedings but being held by Granada who have gotten past the magic 40-point mark with nine games to go, but the draw has done nothing but prolong what seems inevitable. 

Having dominated proceedings, recording 80% of ball possession as well as out striking their opposition Granada took the lead through Carlos Fernandez on 29 minutes. The hosts probed continuously and when Sergio Canales slotted home a penalty and a Cristian Tello strike gave them the lead it looked as though Rubi’s fortunes were changingThey were not. Sloppy defending from a corner saw Roberto Soldado unmarked, and his shot saw and even sloppier attempt at a save from Joel Robles who was beaten at his near post.  

That a side with players of this quality is floundering ensures that the blame lies solely with the coach. For World Cup winner Nabil Fekir that failed transfer to Liverpool must seem worlds away now, while fellow internationals Marc Bartra, Andreas Guardado, Emerson and the forever youthful Jaoquin are enduring poor seasons.  

Real Betis travel to Bilbao on Saturday evening where defeat will likely see the coach dismissed. Sitting in 14th on 34 points they are still not safe, far from it, as two or three more defeats in succession will see them in an unexpected battle for survival. 

Same old, same old

In much the same vein as matchday 28 Real Madrid played after Barcelona, and again put in a ruthless performance to ensure yet again that the gap at the top of the table was reduced from five points to two. 

While they had a three-goal lead at half-time against Eibar a magnificent performance from Jasper Cillessen ensured the game was level at half-time. But for a Rodrigo goal that was disallowed correctly for offside Valencia threatened their opposition little at the training complex in Valdebebas. Madrid continued to attack continuously as the game gave the feeling that if Madrid scored one, more would follow. When Benzema scored, their opposition capitulated. 

Hazard, desperately unlucky with injuries in his first season saw the ball fall to Benzema, the burly striker’s tidy finish finally beating Cillessen before, in a moment that brought a smile to every neutral watching, Marco Asensio, on his first game back since a severe ACL injury suffered last July, scored a wonderful goal with his first touch of the ball. At 2-0 the three points were secured, but there was still time for Madrid’s talismanic Frenchman to send a message of sorts to the leaders.  

With five minutes to go Asensio registered an assist, his ball arrowed towards Benzema who controlled it on his right foot before volleying it in to the top corner past Cillessen with his left. The opposition were defeated already, but the rapier-like, incisive counter-attack showed another dimension to Madrid’s game, Vinicius Junior showing glimmers of quality off the bench with Gareth Bale an unused substitute.  

Matchday 30 may be the most pivotal of the remaining fixtures as Barcelona travel to the Sanchez-Pizjuan and Madrid travel to San Sebastian as they take on Real Sociedad. With the remaining fixtures thinning out the margin for error is becoming smaller and smaller, as one mistake may determine whether the title moves to Madrid, or remains in Catalonia for the third year in succession.

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