MADRID (Reuters) - Talking points from the weekend in La Liga
CAN COURTOIS’ SAVES HAND MADRID ANOTHER TITLE?
It is often said that league titles are won by defences but in the case of Real Madrid, the phrase could be boiled down to the goalkeeper, namely a Thibaut Courtois who continues to play out of his skin and get his side out of jail.
The Belgian made four saves in his side’s 2-0 win at Levante, offering a masterclass in goalkeeping for a second consecutive game after pulling off five saves in the mid-week 1-0 win at Real Valladolid.
Courtois’ consistency was key to Madrid’s relentless run to last season’s La Liga title and he has followed a similar script at the start of this campaign, as his side already lead the standings despite failing to convince on the pitch.
Coach Zinedine Zidane seems relaxed about his side’s difficulties in creating and finishing off chances, however, and with as reliable a shield in Courtois to fall back on, who can blame him?
ATHLETIC’S TOP-FLIGHT RECORD UNDER THREAT
Athletic Bilbao share the rare feat of never being relegated from La Liga along with Real Madrid and Barcelona but already look like having a battle on their hands this season to preserve that status.
Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Alaves was their third loss in four matches and left them second bottom of the table, but the most concerning thing for the Basques is a glaring lack of firepower.
After failing to score at home to nine-man Cadiz in their previous outing, they had no shots on target against Alaves. Meanwhile, Inaki Williams, their focal point in attack, has now gone over 1000 minutes without scoring.
Athletic are also suffering badly from the continued absence of fans due to coronavirus safety measures, depriving them of some 55,000 supporters in home games who have so often helped push them over the line in difficult moments.
RED CARDS PROVE NO OBSTACLE TO WINNING
Eibar’s 2-1 victory at Real Valladolid was the third match in under a week where a team had overcome having a player sent off away from home and gone on to win.
Barcelona had Clement Lenglet dismissed in the first half at Celta Vigo but still beat them 3-0 while Cadiz managed to take the lead in their 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao when down to 10 men and then hold on to it after being reduced to nine players.
Eibar continued this unusual trend on Sunday, refusing to hold on for a draw after Pape Diop was sent off in the 73rd minute in Valladolid, instead going all out for a winner and getting it with Kevin Rodrigues’ header in added time.
“When we were down to 10 men we played our best football, before then the game was far too open,” said victorious coach Jose Luis Mendilibar.
Baffled Valladolid coach Sergio Gonzalez said: “I don’t know what happened, once we had the extra man we faded from the game and did not know how to play against 10.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Richard Pullin
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.