October 22, 2018 / 11:09 AM / in 25 days

Soccer: Five talking points from the weekend in La Liga

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid’s woes continued in La Liga as they lost at home to Levante, while Barcelona forward Lionel Messi fractured his right arm and will miss El Clasico next weekend. Here are five talking points from the weekend’s action:

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona v Sevilla - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - October 20, 2018 Barcelona's Lionel Messi after sustaining an injury REUTERS/Albert Gea

Lopetegui’s last stand?

Without a win in three La Liga games before this weekend, Real Madrid’s season hit a new low on Saturday as minnows Levante beat them 2-1 at the Bernabeu. The visitors raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 13 minutes, much to the discontent of home fans, who voiced their displeasure throughout.

Things got worse for beleaguered coach Julen Lopetegui as his side set an unwanted new club record of 465 minutes without scoring. Marco Asensio’s strike in their 1-0 victory over Espanyol last month was their last goal in any competition before Marcelo scored a consolation for Real at the weekend.

Their defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League earlier this month means the European champions are five games without a win. They face Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday before visiting Barcelona next Saturday and a defeat by their greatest rivals might well see Lopetegui axed by club president Florentino Perez.

Barca win - but at a cost

The Catalan side beat table-topping Sevilla on Saturday night, but it was the fractured arm suffered by Lionel Messi that grabbed the headlines.

The Argentine has been in fine form this season, and kept it up on Saturday, setting up the side’s opener and scoring their second in the 4-2 victory. But he fell awkwardly after 25 minutes and the club said he is likely to miss the next three weeks with a fractured arm.

It means Barca will be without their captain and most important player for the visit of Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday and when they face arch rivals Real in next weekend’s El Clasico.

Most open title race in years

An accusation often levelled at La Liga is that it is a two-team league dominated by Barca and Real Madrid. It can be hard to argue otherwise given that Atletico Madrid’s 2013-14 title is the only one not won by either of the “big two” in the last 14 seasons.

This season, however, is shaping up to be the most exciting title race Spain’s top flight has seen in years, with the top five separated by just two points. Barca, with 18 points, lead the way, but Espanyol, Alaves and Sevilla complete the top four, with Atletico back in fifth on 16 points.

With Real, who are seventh, enduring a torrid time and Barcelona demonstrating sketchy form, there is a real chance that an unfancied side could win the title come May.

Things not getting better for Huesca

Huesca, playing their debut campaign in La Liga, got off to the dream start when they beat Eibar away on the opening day of the season and secured a credible draw at Athletic Bilbao in their next game.

Unfortunately, it has been downhill for them since then. They sacked coach Leo Franco before the international break, but got no new manager boost under Francisco Rodriguez as visitors Espanyol comfortably beat them 2-0.

They are now eight games without a win, racking up six losses in that time, too. Rock bottom of the table with just five points, they are already in danger of being cut adrift at this early stage of the season.

Ronaldo’s Valladolid on the rise

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Levante - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - October 20, 2018 Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui during the match. REUTERS/Susana Vera

In contrast, Valladolid, who came up with Huesca from the Segunda last season, find themselves in sixth and above Real Madrid in the table.

Eyebrows were raised last month when former Brazilian forward Ronaldo bought a majority stake in the modest club from the Castille and Leon region, however since the 42-year-old came on board the club have lost just once in six games, winning their last four in a row.

Their 1-0 victory away to Betis this weekend saw them equal the club record of four top division wins in a row set 19 years ago and their away form — no defeats, two goals conceded, ten points earned — is the best in the division

Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Helen Popper

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