Wed, 01 Dec 2021

MADRID, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Matchday 9 in La Liga was without Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid who were allowed to rest players returning from South American internationals, and that allowed other teams to claim the spotlight. Here are some things we learned this weekend in Spain.

1. Real Sociedad deserve their luck

Real Sociedad took advantage of Real and Atletico Madrid's inactivity to move three points clear at the top of La Liga thanks to a last minute goal at home to Mallorca. Both the winning goal and the goal which saw them beat Elche 1-0 three weeks ago came thanks to key errors from their rival, but the Basque side deserve their luck.

Imanol Alguacil's team are top of the table despite a long injury list which has led to several B-team players being called up, but these players have slotted in and Imanol's attacking philosophy means that while rivals may consider settling for a point, his players keep on looking for the winning goal right until the final whistle.

2. Fati will get the headlines, but maybe Alba is the key

Ansu Fati was back in the Barcelona starting 11 with a bang as his side beat Valencia 3-1 to lift the pressure on coach Ronald Koeman. Fati scored Barca's opening goal to cancel out Jose Gaya's opener for Valencia, and then forced the penalty which allowed Memphis Depay to smash Barca into the lead. However, Fati wasn't the only Barca player back in action, and perhaps the return of left back Jordi Alba was just as important, if not more so, than that of the young striker.

Alba's constant raids down the left flank gave Barca the depth their attacking play has been missing in recent games, as his ability to come from deep saw him surprise their rivals and create space.

The left-back was often Lionel Messi's best partner on the pitch, and against Valencia he showed that he and Fati also have a good understanding.

3. Sevilla quietly keep up the pace

With all the talk of Real Sociedad and FC Barcelona, Sevilla's 1-0 win away to Celta Vigo crept under the radar, but once again Julen Lopetegui's side are well and truly involved in the race for the title.

Although they were at times under pressure from a rival that had more shots than they did, Sevilla's defense held firm and striker Rafa Mir converted one of their few chances to take all three points and lift them up to third in the table.

Maybe it's their solid and unspectacular football that means Sevilla don't claim many headlines, but they were in last season's title race until the very end and this season looks as if it will be no different.

4. Rayo and Osasuna lead the march of the underdogs

Rayo Vallecano and Osasuna are currently fifth and sixth in the table after wins at the weekend, with Rayo fighting back from a goal down to beat Elche 2-1, while Osasuna inflicted Villarreal's first league defeat by the same score.

Both sides operate on tight budgets, but their respective coaches Andoni Iraola and Jagoba Arrasate have them working to a plan which sees them press their rivals hard and high, keep their shape and take at least one of the chances that falls to them

In their winger Isi, Rayo have a player who has something special about him, while Kike Garcia and Jon Moncayola are names to look out for at Osasuna.

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