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La Liga Matchday 9 – Has Spain got a fourth title contender?

There was a surprise leader on Saturday night in La Liga as Sevilla stunned Atletico Madrid with their first defeat of the season as former Stoke midfielder Steven N’Zonzi drove through the Atletico defence in the pelting rain to slot home into the corner of the net past Jan Oblak. Atletico huffed and puffed but Diego Simeone’s side could not beat Jorge Sampaoli’s men and it was the latter who saw his side go top and inflict an important defeat on Atleti in what could turn out to be a real six pointer come the end of the season.

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In a weekend of incredible fixtures, Barcelona travelled to take on Cesare Prandelli’s new look and in-form Valencia and emerged victorious, but only just. Valencia started brightly and the came back from behind, with Lionel Messi’s first half strike cancelled out by Munir and Rodrigo after the break, only for Luis Suarez to again draw the scores back level. There were question marks over whether Messi’s strike should have been allowed to stand with Luis Suarez stood in an offside position, but there could be no question marks over his 94th minute winner from the penalty spot against expert Diego Alves. Bottles and lighters rained down from the Mestalla stands, with Neymar and Suarez going down in the celebrations, but it was a sweet three points for Barcelona despite a serious knee injury to Andres Iniesta.

Real Madrid then faced a tough test on Sunday night as Athletic Bilbao came to town without talisman Aritz Aduriz. The pressure was on and whilst Karim Benzema’s early strike alleviated that a little, it was clear to see the stakes were high when sloppy defending allowed Sabin Merino to equalise just before the half hour mark. It took until seven minutes from time for Alvaro Morata to find the winner thanks to a little bit of luck and poor goalkeeping from Gorka Iraizoz.

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Villarreal were the side to step up over Atletico Madrid into fourth place thanks to a late, late comeback over Las Palmas. Kevin Prince Boateng scored an incredible strike after a remarkable team move for the Canary Island team to take the lead at El Madrigal. Nicola Sansone drew things level from the penalty spot just after the hour mark but it was Cedric Bakambu found the net in the 92nd minute to earn the three points for the yellow submarine.

Celta de Vigo and Deportivo also faced up in a Galician derby on the north coast, with former Liverpool striker Iago Aspas scoring twice to give his side, Celta, victory. Strikes from Hugo Mallo and Raul Albentosa saw the two sides go in level at half-time but goals from Aspas and Fabio Orellana put the home team out of sight in the second half as Depor remain out of the relegation zone only on goal difference with their struggles since the sale of Lucas Perez continuing.

Another side languishing at the wrong end of the table are Espanyol as Quique Sanchez Flores hoped to get their first home win of the season as they welcomed Eibar. The Basque side raced to a 3-0 lead by half time with the former Watford boss increasingly looking like his job was hanging by a thread. Pablo Piatti stepped up to save his boss in the second half, scoring one and setting up another as, despite a red card for Felipe Caicedo, Leo Baptistao scored a 93rd minute equaliser to rescue a point which keeps them out of the bottom three.

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Leganes have been impressive since their promotion to La Liga but it was Malaga who stunned those at La Rosaleda on Sunday as a quickfire double just before half-time set them on their way to a 4-0 victory over the side from the Madrid suburbs. Former Barcelona striker Sandro and Ivan Camacho, targeted by a number of Premier League clubs, were among those on the scoresheet for the south coast club.

At the other end of the country, Real Sociedad stretched the winless run of another newly promoted team, Alaves, to three games as they ran out 3-0 winners on Saturday. Former Arsenal forward Carlos Vela rounded off the scoring with a quality strike in the final minutes of the clash as his team continue to push for a place in the Europa League.

However, Granada’s winless run is one which stretches back to May as they remain without a win this season despite securing a Saturday night draw with Sporting Gijon as both sides drew blanks with Lucas Alcaraz picking up his first point in charge and his club’s third of the season.

Real Betis manager Gus Poyet lives to fight another day after his side secured a victory over Osasuna with a late win of their own on Friday night. Felipe Gutierrez scored the vital goal in the 91st minute after a tight encounter could have seen either side emerge with the three points, with Joaquin and Roberto Torres also on the scoresheet.

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