October 8, 2018 / 12:21 PM / in a month

Soccer: Five talking points from the weekend in La Liga

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona drew 1-1 at Valencia after Real Madrid lost 1-0 away to Alaves, allowing Sevilla to go top of La Liga with a 2-1 home win over Celta Vigo on Sunday. Here are five talking points from the weekend’s La Liga action.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Valencia v FC Barcelona - Mestalla, Valencia, Spain - October 7, 2018 Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho in action REUTERS/Heino Kalis

Pass king Arthur Barca’s new style guardian

Even though Arthur Melo is just 22 and arrived from Gremio in the close season he already appears to have nailed the Barcelona style, playing as if he had been at La Masia all his life.

Barca were held 1-1 at Valencia on Sunday, a disappointing fourth game without a win in La Liga, but Arthur stood out for an impressive midfield display.

The Brazilian helped Barcelona keep the ball, dominating possession and taking the sting out of the game after a fierce Valencia onslaught in the opening stages.

Arthur attempted more passes at an away ground (142) than any player since Xavi Hernandez in 2012 at Levante (148), with 135 finding their targets.

Comparisons to the Barcelona legend have already been drawn and even though Arthur has a long way to go to reach those heights he has made an impressive start.

Madrid’s impotence in front of goal

Over the years Real Madrid have been known for their array of attacking talent but for the first time since April 1985 they have gone four matches without scoring.

Julen Lopetegui’s side let in a late goal to fall to a 1-0 defeat against Alaves at Mendizorroza and have not found the net in almost seven hours across all competitions.

Real’s all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo joined Juventus in July and nobody has taken his throne, with Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema struggling to match the Portuguese’s output.

With only two matches to go before Madrid face Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the first Clasico of the season, Los Blancos need to find their shooting boots quickly.

Simeone wins style clash against Real Betis

Diego Simeone’s durable Atletico Madrid met Quique Setien’s Real Betis on Sunday, a match between two sides with vastly different styles.

As usual, Atletico relied on their solid defence while visitors Betis’s possession game saw them keep the ball for much of the encounter.

However the outcome was decided when Simeone brought on striker Angel Correa, a player Spanish newspaper Marca described as the ultimate ‘antithesis’ of Betis.

The Argentine forward, “a direct, anarchic, chaotic player,” drilled home the only goal to ensure Atletico moved third, ahead of rivals Real.

Correa takes risks and surrenders the ball easily but his explosive impact ensured pragmatism won out over possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Ambitious Espanyol huge at home

Now fifth in the table, Espanyol are exceeding expectations and, following a 3-1 win over Villarreal on Sunday, they are the only team to have won all four of their home matches.

Rubi’s side are playing good football and even though only 20,000 fans attended the game at their 40,000 capacity RCDE Stadium, they have been particularly good there.

Espanyol are only two points behind leaders Sevilla and while a title challenge is a long shot, midfielder Sergi Darder’s comments at the start of the season are starting to look less strange.

“We must try to win La Liga,” said Darder. “We know that it’s 99.9 percent impossible, but we need to set ambitious objectives. There will be time to consider ourselves a normal team, but for now we believe we are the best.”

Sarabia stars as Sevilla emerge aloft

La Liga is more open than it has been for years and after eight games Pablo Machin’s Sevilla lead by one point.

On Saturday Real Madrid, Barcelona and Alaves were level on points before Atletico moved top on Sunday before being replaced by Sevilla who beat visitors Celta Vigo 2-1.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Barcelona had the chance to install themselves as the new leaders later on Sunday but failed to win at Valencia.

Machin has taken little time to get his ideas across at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan and his namesake Pablo Sarabia has been a big beneficiary.

The midfielder, who netted the opener against Celta, has hit nine goals in all competitions this season, more than any player in Spain bar Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Editing by Ken Ferris

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