By Joseph Cassinelli
MADRID (Reuters) – La Liga leaders Barcelona thrashed great rivals Real Madrid to all but seal coach Julen Lopetegui’s fate while surprise package Alaves kept the heat on the Catalans by downing Villarrealto move second.
Atletico Madrid bounced back from their disaster inDortmund, but there was more frustration for Valencia and Athletic Bilbao.
Here are five talking points from the weekend’s action:
SUBLIMESUAREZSHOWS ‘NO MESSI NO PROBLEMS’
All the talk heading into Sunday’s El Clasico meeting was surrounding the fact that it would be the first time in 11 years that the match between Barcelona and Real Madrid will not feature Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
In their absence both sides needed players to step up and nobody did more so than Barcelona forward Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan netted a hat-trick, taking his goal tally against Real to nine in 11 games, and proved to be the difference between the two sides.
The 5-1 defeat was Real’s heaviest in the fixture since 2010 which surely will signal the end of hapless coach Lopetegui’s spell in charge of Real, with local media reports suggesting Italian Antonio Conte is set to take over.
With Real floundering in ninth place, the assumption would be that Barca are romping to the La Liga title. However, it is unfancied Alaves who are just a point back and keeping the heat on the Catalans.
It has been a remarkable turnaround by coach Abelardo Fernandez, who took over last December with the Basque outfit rock bottom of the La Liga table.
After leading them to mid-table safety last season, they have kicked on again this and find themselves as the unlikely challenger to Barcelona.
While a sustained challenge over the course of the season will be a big ask, Alaves will enjoy the ride. More pertinently the string start, coupled with the struggles of the likes of Real, Valencia and others, they are in contention of a Champions League berth for next season.
ATLETICOBOUNCEBACKFROMDISASTER IN DORTMUND
After suffering the heaviest defeat of Diego Simeone’s seven-year tenure in midweek when they were hammered 4-0 by Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid bounced back with a comfortable 2-0 home win over Real Sociedad.
They were top of La Liga going into the Clasico but Barca ran riot over arch-rivals Real to regain top spot.
The Madrid-based side are two points behind Barca and, having finished ahead of Real last season, will fancy their chances of cementing themselves as the capital’s number one club for the long-term.
All eyes will be on Nov. 24 when they host the Catalans in what is already shaping up to be a crucial match in the title run.
Last season Marcelino’s Valencia side thrilled everyone with their dazzling attacking football and they deservedly qualified for the Champions League by finishing fourth. This season, however, has been a different story for Los Che.
Despite the summer arrivals of forwards Kevin Gameiro and Michy Batshuayi to supplement the likes of Goncalo Guedes and Rodrigo, Marcelino’s side have drawn eight of their 10 La Liga games this season with just seven goals.
Athletic Bilbao themselves had drawn six times this campaign before facing Valencia and therefore only one outcome seemed inevitable in the match between the sides – a 0-0 draw.
ASPASGOESFROMHOSPITALWARD TO HAT-TRICKHERO
Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas was the side’s hat-trick hero on Saturday as they hammered Eibar 4-0 to ease the pressure on manager Antonio Mohamed, but it was his unconventional preparations for the game that made headlines over the weekend.
Aspas’ daughter was born on Friday evening and he spent the night in hospital with his wife before playing on Saturday.
“I went to the hospital with my wife, all ready to go and meet the team at breakfast,” he told reporters after the game.
“We all slept well, and the new arrival barely cried. But the sofa was a bit hard – I’m not going to lie!”
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)