In the latest round of La Liga Messi shows who’s boss, and Sevilla reveals itself as a true title contender…
1) … And Jovetic ended Zidane’s streak
Who could have imagined it? One week ago, Stevan Jovetic was barely more than a place-maker in Inter’s impressive roster. Then, Sevilla mastermind Monchi swiftly moved in and signed him till the end of season. On Tuesday the forward was officially presented, on Thursday he scored against Real Madrid and, this weekend, his late goal ended Zinedine Zidane’s legendary 40-match unbeaten streak.
Real Madrid played much better than in the Copa del Rey second-leg game, but this time Sergio Ramos didn’t provide the lucky charm; instead, the centre-back scored an unfortunate own-goal that made a charged crowd in the Sánchez Pizjuan stadium believe that a victory was at hand. Forty games later, the current UCL champions bit the dust (2-1).
2) Sampaoli boosts Sevilla into championship contender
A large chunk of the success of Sevilla’s impressive season can deservedly claimed by Argentinian manager Jorge Sampaoli. After a thorough job setting the foundations of an incredible Chile national side, the Argentinean left after a successful four years looking for new challenges.
Three-time Europa League champions Sevilla provided the tools needed to create a tremendous squad, disciplined in defense and extremely creative on the attack. Midfielder, Steven N’Zonzi, has finally exploded as one of the top players in his position, and Spanish forward, Vitolo, provides the imagination and skill needed to score and assist.
Although Sampaoli’s men had a steep learning curve on the first couple of games, but they’ve become the most resilient, ambitious, hungry and best-managed sides in La Liga. Squeezed between Real and Barça, Sevilla’s second place is well-deserved. And the side’s only weak spot (the need of a striker in top shape) seems to have been patched up with Jovetic’s signing. But will they be able to fight toe-to-toe with the two ‘giants’ of the league?
3) Barcelona is (once again) all about Messi
Once upon a time, there was a player so incredibly good, so amazingly talented, so uncannily dominant, that his contract had to be renewed and improved every couple of years. It’s that time all over again: with rumblings and musing regarding the impending negotiations between Leo Messi’s camp and FC Barcelona’s board, it doesn’t seem too smart to downplay his key role in the team.
And that’s exactly what Pere Gratacós did: “Messi wouldn’t be so good without Iniesta or Neymar”, claimed the former Barça Head of Institutional Relations. Yep, you read properly: ‘former’, as he was quickly demoted from his management role by the board, terrified at the prospect of getting on the bad side of arguably their biggest star ever. Meanwhile, seemingly unaware of all this drama, Leo once again provided a much needed dose of football magic in order to trounce Las Palmas (5-0) and close the gap at the top of the table for Barcelona.
4) A sigh of relief for Valencia fans
Oh, what a morning!
Valencia’s emotional rollercoaster hit a high for once after finally grabbing a huge win against RCD Espanyol (2-1). Youngster, Carlos Soler, has emerged as the most promising midfielder in years, and already has the looks and the playing style of a seasoned veteran.
Rodrigo’s ankle injury will keep him three months on the sidelines, but the team seems to be OK in the scoring department: left-back Montoya is having his best season in years and scored the opener, and Mina capped a solid performance. With newly signed striker, Simone Zaza, in the stands, even the team’s inability to keep a clean sheet didn’t spoil the fans’ party. Valencia pulls now four points ahead the relegation spots.
5) Sporting de Gijón’s ship sinks along with Osasuna and Granada
Depression lurks in traditionally passionate Gijon, home of the oldest football stadium in La Liga. Sporting’s ‘El Molinon’ is witnessing, twice a month, some of the worst performances ever by its local side. Fans have a long, ongoing feud with the board and its president, but their spirit keeps plunging after losing once again against Eibar (2-3).
Coach Abelardo, however, has been strongly supported publicly by the management. A measly 12 points in eighteen games puts Sporting in the relegation zone, only worsened by Osasuna’s chaotic season (their manager Joaquín Caparrós was fired two weeks ago) and Granada’s mind-boggling antics, after making official a new one-year extension deal for a manager, Lucas Alcaraz, who has only won just 10 points this season.