After the international break, LaLiga clubs were eyeing better results during their return to action. Some succeeded, while others certainly did not. But the most interesting aspect is that many sides now in the top four are making the start to 2018-19 a genuine surprise for all involved.
The weekend’s matches began at the Balaídos, as Celta Vigo suffered a home loss to Alavés thanks to a Tomás Pina goal in the first half. The win moved Alavés into first place, although their position at the top would not last for very long.
Real Madrid’s struggles continued this past weekend, following a shocking 2-1 defeat at the hands of Levante on Saturday afternoon. Los Blancos manager Julen Lopetegui’s position is in serious jeopardy at the moment, and a good showing in the Champions League on Tuesday evening is vital.
Leganés played out a 1-1 draw at Valencia, securing an important away point. The same scoreline was seen later that day, with Villarreal and Atlético Madrid each walking away with a point. Those results kept Alavés in first, until Barcelona reclaimed their place at the league’s summit.
The Blaugrana secured a 4-2 win over Sevilla at the Camp Nou, once again gaining LaLiga’s top spot. Everything was not perfect for Barcelona though, as Lionel Messi suffered an arm injury that will keep him on the sidelines for about three weeks.
A Madrid derby started the Sunday fixtures, with Getafe fans enjoying a 2-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano. Athletic Club’s sluggish opening weeks of 2018-19 continued in a 1-1 draw at fellow Basque club Eibar. Los Leones are 17th in the table, avoiding the relegation places only by goal difference at the moment.
Espanyol’s charge into the top four received a boost with a 2-0 win at Huesca, moving the Catalan side into second place. Sunday evening featured a disappointing showing from Real Betis, as they lost at home to newly-promoted Real Valladolid. Monday’s fixture produced a 0-0 draw between Real Sociedad and Girona.
We highlight the top players and performances from around LaLiga in Matchweek Nine.
GK - Fernando Pacheco - Deportivo Alavés
Alavés and manager Abelardo have been sharp in the season’s early weeks, and goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco has been an important part of that success.
The 26-year-old recorded nine saves against Celta Vigo, and consistently puts himself in good positions to stop the opponent’s chances at goal.
RB - Mario Gaspar - Villarreal CF
Villarreal were disappointed not to gain maximum points at home versus Atlético Madrid, but they were able to at least earn a point after Mario Gaspar’s second-half goal.
The Yellow Submarine sit 16th in the table, only a point above the drop zone.
CB - Sergio Postigo - Levante UD
Levante surprised many fans and pundits with their win at Real Madrid on Saturday, their first at the Bernabéu since 2007. Part of the praise should certainly go to Sergio Postigo.
The centre-back assisted on the team’s first goal, and his intelligent positioning throughout the second half allowed them to see out the victory.
CB - Víctor Laguardia - Deportivo Alavés
Alavés were the stars of the weekend, and the defensive work of Víctor Laguardia was a key element to success at Celta Vigo.
The 28-year-old provided the winning assist in the second half, and helped to keep the clean sheet thanks to strong communication with the back-line.
LB - Filipe Luís - Atlético Madrid
Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone will not be pleased settling for a draw at slumping Villarreal, although Filipe Luís did his best to earn all three points.
The defender scored the game’s opening goal in the 51st minute.
MF - Antoñito - Real Valladolid
It has truly been an overall team effort for Real Valladolid, sitting sixth in the table following four consecutive league wins. Against Real Betis, it was Antoñito who shined in the midfield.
His passes were accurate throughout the 90 minutes and his first-half goal ended up being the winner for the club on Sunday night.
MF - Ivan Rakitić - FC Barcelona
There was a bit of a cloud over Barcelona’s win on Saturday, due to Lionel Messi’s injury. Ivan Rakitić was a consistent presence against Sevilla, and his efforts helped to bring all three points.
The Croatian international controlled the pace of the game, and netted the team’s fourth goal late in the match.
MF - Daniel Parejo - Valencia CF
Valencia should’ve taken more from their match against Leganés. Team captain Daniel Parejo was the reason they at least earned a point.
The midfielder recorded an assist and was a constant threat delivering corner-kicks into the penalty area for Los Che (nine).
FW - Luis Suárez - FC Barcelona
Barcelona’s front-line was effective against Sevilla, with Luis Suárez causing significant damage to the opposition in his striker role.
The Uruguayan international recorded an assist on the team’s second goal, and added a goal of his own from the penalty spot in the second half.
FW - Borja Iglesias - RCD Espanyol
Espanyol’s magical ride continues in 2018-19, now sitting second in the table after their win at Huesca. Two goals from Borja Iglesias was all they needed to secure that triumph.
The former Celta Vigo striker was clever with his runs at goal, making life difficult for the opposing defenders on Sunday.
FW - Philippe Coutinho - FC Barcelona
Barcelona were facing an important test on Saturday, as Sevilla certainly presented a formidable opponent. However, Philippe Coutinho provided an immediate sigh of relief for fans with a goal in only the second minute of the game.
Following an injury to Lionel Messi, the Brazilian did well to calm his team-mates with his smooth and confident play.
Rubi - RCD Espanyol
During the past few weeks, there has been a feeling that Espanyol and manager Rubi were just waiting for the odds to catch up with them. However, with each passing game they earn more praise, and find new ways to claim victories. Now unbeaten in their last four league fixtures, the squad earned a comfortable win at Huesca thanks to their coach's strategy on Sunday.
Rubi was Huesca’s manager last season, guiding the club to promotion and their first-ever LaLiga campaign. But he would move on to a new challenge with Espanyol, and has the players carrying out his tactics perfectly.
He knew his opponent well, and Rubi understood that the midfield was where Los Periquitos could take advantage. Espanyol did well to close down passing lanes, and made it tough for Huesca to create many genuine scoring opportunities.
After two goals from Borja Iglesias, the visitors had all they needed to leave the Estadio El Alcoraz with three points. Their next game will be at Real Valladolid on Friday evening.
Espanyol are now second in LaLiga, just one point back of Barcelona.