In the opening game of the 24th Matchday of La Liga two of the most astounding small teams faced each other in the stadium of the Catalonian side.
A match-up of the second and third place teams in La Liga, in the form of Simeone’s Atletico Madrid and Marcelino’s Valencia. In a hotly contested match, Atletico showed why they are the top defensive side in Europe at the moment, holding Valencia to 0 shots on goal for the whole match.
This might be it for the La Liga title race. After yet another Barcelona win at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the Blaugrana can enjoy a comfortable lead, while some Blancos call for the head of coach Zinédine Zidane who thought man-marking Barça’s key players was the best strategy.
Simeone’s Atletico Madrid hosted Sampaoli’s Sevilla side in an eagerly anticipated 3rd vs 4th clash. An uncharacteristic season for the home side had shown signs of improving in recent weeks, whereas Sevilla’s form had been on the wane.
Luis Enrique’s Barcelona side made the enviable trip to Paris on Valentine’s day for a last-16 first leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain. Both sides are experiencing average domestic campaigns by their lofty recent standards and the Champions League thus takes on great significance as an alternative way of enjoying a successful season.
Granada v Real Sociedad belongs to the group of fixtures which one does not tend to eagerly anticipate. Both teams are, however, interesting in their own different ways.
Fresh from their midweek defeat to Manchester City, Enrique’s Barcelona travelled to the Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday night for an eagerly anticipated clash with Sevilla. An away win would see the Catalan side close the gap on leaders Real Madrid to 2 points, however they were struggling in the absence of Iniesta and Pique in particular. As for the hosts life under Sampaoli was bliss and victory would leave them 3 points off the pace and dreaming of a title challenge.
The most tactically-enticing game of the weekend-just-gone came from Spain as the best defensive system in the world travelled to stop Sampaoli’s fluid Sevilla team.
Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid met Guardiola’s Barcelona at the Bernabeu on the evening of the 10th of December 2011. Mourinho’s men went into the game with a 3 point advantage and were desperate to add to their solitary victory over their arch-rivals in Mourinho’s tenure.
La Liga champions Barcelona made the short trip to the Basque country to take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday evening. In what is one of the more eagerly anticipated clashes on the La Liga calendar, Bilbao’s intense and energetic pressing was pitched against Barcelona’s commitment to passing out from defence. What followed was a thrilling encounter where only poor finishing from both sides meant the game finished with one goal.