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Spanish La Liga

La Liga Matchday 12 – Have Real ended Atletico’s title challenge already?

Without a doubt the clash of the weekend was the last ever Madrid derby to be played at the Vicente Calderon as Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid lined up without the likes of Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Morata and Karim Benzema in a new look system. There were surprises too in the Atletico line-up, with Diego Simeone preferring Fernando Torres to Kevin Gameiro. It was one man who proved the difference though as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to secure a shock 3-0 win. Atleti started better, but Cristiano’s free-kick deflected off the wall and caught Jan Oblak out, before he added a second from the penalty spot in the second half and a third with a tap in from a Gareth Bale cross.

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The result sees Simeone’s side slip to 6th place, but FC Barcelona also slipped up at home against Malaga. Luis Suarez was suspended and Lionel Messi was sick just before the game, ruling him out, and their absences showed. Paco Alcacer went 31 minutes without touching the ball in the first half and it was Gerard Pique who came closest to scoring with a goal wrongly ruled out. Two red cards for Malaga did not help their cause, with this result following a home defeat to Alaves and a narrow 1-0 victory over Granada at the Camp Nou.

Sevilla, the side in the best position to capitalise, were fortunate to secure three points on Saturday, with two goals in the final five minutes securing a comeback, having been 2-0 down moments before half time against Deportivo A Coruna. Having done so, Jorge Sampaoli’s side were even more lucky not to concede an even later penalty for what seemed a clear push in the box which would have given the Galicians a new opportunity to claw themselves further away from the relegation zone.

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There was another top six clash in La Liga as Villarreal traveled to Bilbao to face Athletic but a dull first half gave way to Raul Garcia’s strike capping a second half of domination from the Basque side. Fran Escriba tinkered with the Yellow Submarine’s system and his players failed to adapt, producing a disappointing display which saw them only only narrowly retain fourth place.

One of the surprises of the season who appear to be sneaking under the radar are David Moyes’ former side, Real Sociedad, who soared to fifth with a 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon, who continue to look troubled at the wrong end of the table. A blistering start to the second half saw the San Sebastian side race into the lead to stretch Sporting’s winless run to five matches as they remained in the bottom three.

The other top half clash in La Liga this weekend saw Eibar see off Celta Vigo, with Fran Rico’s effort enough to separate the sides to climb to eighth in the league. The game was hardfought and saw Hugo Mallo sent off after the match had finished with John Guidetti also booked in the post-final whistle fracas.

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Gus Poyet would have been growing frustrated if he was watching on as his former club, Real Betis, looked a different side on Friday night under the management of Victor Sanchez with Joaquin providing assists for Bruno and Aissa Mandi to head home before half time to gain a two goal lead over Las Palmas.

Espanyol also continued their turn around as they made it six games without defeat by seeing off Alaves away from home, with Gerard Moreno recovering from missing a 79th minute penalty in the perfect way by scoring an 81st minute winner to seal the three points for the Barcelona side under Quique Flores.

Valencia’s recovery under Cesare Prandelli is stalling though, with Nani having to rescue his side after they embarrassingly went a goal behind to bottom side Granada at the Mestalla on Sunday. A 1-1 draw is not much better and leaves Los Che only two points clear of the bottom three almost a third of the way through the season, though Granada are still searching for their first win of the campaign.

Osasuna only have one victory to their name this campaign but were hoping to add a second as they traveled to minnows Leganes on the Madrid outskirts, but Robert Ibanez scored either side of half time to condemn the Pamplona based side to yet another defeat in front of less than 9,000 spectators on Monday night.

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