March 11, 2019 / 12:19 PM / 4 months ago

Soccer-Talking points from the weekend in La Liga

MADRID, March 11 (Reuters) - Barcelona maintained their seven point lead at the top of La Liga with a 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano, while second place Atletico Madrid squeezed past Leganes with a 1-0 win to maintain their title challenge.

Here are five talking points from the weekend in La Liga.

SOLARI WAITING FOR THE AXE

Despite Real Madrid’s big 4-1 win at Real Valladolid on Sunday which ended a run of three straight defeats in all competitions, manager Santiago Solari still appears to be doomed.

The coach insisted he will keep fighting for the club, but Emilio Butragueno, the club’s director of institutional relations, refused to confirm that the Argentine would be in charge next weekend.

“Solari is a wonderful professional but we are here to talk about the game, talking about Solari is not about the game,” said Butragueno.

CAMP NOU TURNS ON COUTINHO

For the first time, Barcelona supporters showed Philippe Coutinho they aren’t happy with his performances.

The Catalans eased to victory over Rayo on Saturday but when record 160 million euro ($179.87 million) signing Coutinho was substituted, having been invisible for 80 minutes, there were some whistles from the stands.

The Brazilian playmaker has scored only eight goals in 39 appearances across all competitions.

“Obviously, he cost a lot and that means there are higher expectations surrounding his performances,” said defender Gerard Pique.

“You have to accept the reaction of the fans because at the end of the day they’re our supporters, you have to respect (their opinion).”

Ousmane Dembele’s hamstring injury means Coutinho may be handed a chance to impress in Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Olympique Lyonnais on Wednesday.

VULTURES EYEING CELTA TALENTS

Fran Escriba took charge of his first game at Celta Vigo but there was no ‘new manager bounce’ as the Galicians went down 1-0 at Real Betis on Sunday.

With Villarreal winning later, Celta dropped into the relegation zone and are being forced to confront the possibility of being demoted.

They have a lot of talented players, with Iago Aspas, Maxi Gomez and Pione Sisto all among the most dangerous forwards in the league.

Should they fall, there will be no shortage of suitors for their attackers and Spain midfielder Brais Mendez.

ATLETICO DEFENCE TIGHTENS AT CRUCIAL TIME

At times this season Atletico Madrid’s usually watertight defence has not been so solid, as Diego Simeone tries to figure out a way to get his forwards to deliver more.

However, as the season’s run-in begins, Atletico have gone back to basics and are beginning to look their formidable selves.

Their narrow win over Leganes saw goalkeeper Jan Oblak record his fifth clean sheet in a row in all competitions, while the visitors only managed eight touches in the Atletico box.

Another clean sheet on Tuesday against Juventus will see Atletico reach the Champions League quarter-finals, while they are still within touching distance of Barca in La Liga.

BEN YEDDER MATCHES SUKER

Wissam Ben Yedder hit a hat-trick in under 14 minutes as Sevilla thrashed Real Sociedad 5-2 on Sunday.

It was Ben Yedder’s fourth for the club, matching a record set by legendary Croatia striker Davor Suker 22 years ago.

The French forward may not be as well known as his Atletico and Real Madrid compatriots Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema, but he has outscored them both.

Ben Yedder has 26 goals this season across all competitions, only behind Paris St-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe on 29 as the top French goalscorer in Europe. ($1 = 0.8895 euros) (Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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