Real Madrid can still use James Rodriguez: Five lessons learnt in Spain
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both hit five ahead of their showdown on Wednesday, but continue to trail league leaders Real Madrid.
Here are five lessons to consider from the fourth round of the Primera Liga this weekend:
James Rodriguez is still a talent to be reckoned with
Without the ill Cristiano Ronaldo and injured Gareth Bale, Real Madrid laboured for 45 minutes at Espanyol until James Rodriguez fired home the opener just before the break to pave the way to a 2-0 win.
Rodriguez was starting for the first time this season as the Colombian has slipped down the pecking order at the Bernabeu since the arrival of Zinedine Zidane in January.
Results have made Zidane’s case. Real recorded a club record 16th straight Primera Liga win in Barcelona Sunday, but there is no doubt the top scorer at the 2014 World Cup possesses the ability to turn games on his own.
Doing so on a night the European champions needed him to, without Ronaldo and Bale, can only further Rodriguez’s case for more game time in an upcoming frantic couple of weeks for Real.
A nice try, at least
Leganes tried to make Barcelona’s first ever Primera Liga trip to the Butarque as uncomfortable as possible by relentlessly pressing the champions deep into their own half for the first 15 minutes on Saturday’s clash.
The problem for the Madrid minnows was as soon as Barca resigned themselves to playing the ball long, the Leganes defence were left with just three defenders to cover the lethal strike force of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar (MSN).
All three South Americans were on target in a 5-1 thrashing that showed Barca’s ability and willingness to play on the counter-attack on the rare occasions the opposition leaves plenty of space for the MSN to exploit.
Yet, despite their success in Europe, Sevilla remain incapable of winning on the road in Spain.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men went 1-0 up through Luciano Vietto at Eibar and played the whole second-half against 10 men as the Basque side’s goalkeeper Yoel Rodriguez was dismissed just before the break.
However, Pedro Leon gave the hosts a share of the spoils before Eibar ended the game with nine men.
Sevilla have now gone 21 games and 16 months since they last won an away league match.
Atletico kick into high gear
Whilst Barca’s front three hit four between them at Leganes, Atletico Madrid’s frontmen went one better as Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres both scored twice and Kevin Gameiro lashed home his first goal from open play in an Atletico shirt in a 5-0 rout of Sporting Gjion.
Atletico’s lack of killer instinct almost ended their title challenge before it began with draws against Leganes and Alaves in their opening two games.
However, they trail Barca by just a point and go into Wednesday’s first blockbuster clash of the season away to the Catalan side full of confidence after three wins, 10 goals and three clean sheets in the past week.
Already under the threat of the sack
Valencia’s worst start to a season for 17 years continued with a 2-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao leaving them rock bottom and the only one side without a single point so far this season.
Los Che’s miserable run comes despite not yet having faced any of Spain’s four Champions League representatives and, with games against Atletico and Barca to come in October, Thursday’s clash with Alaves is a must-win if Pako Ayestaran is to avoid becoming the latest coach axed by Singaporean owner Peter Lim.
Published: September 19, 2016 04:00 AM