REAL MADRID SURGE INTO THE LEAD
Real Sociedad stumbled at home in a goalless draw against Valencia on Sunday, allowing Real Madrid to leapfrog them to the top of the LaLiga table and the way in which Carlo Ancelotti’s side did it — a 4-1 win over Granada — will delight fans.
Real’s third consecutive league victory came on the back of a midfield masterclass from Tony Kroos and Casemiro, while their Brazilian youngster Vinicius Jr also impressed with a goal.
Ancelotti’s improving side will look to carry the confidence into Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Sheriff Tiraspol — the Moldavian club that handed Real their only defeat in this season’s group stage.
PRESSURE MOUNTING ON EMERY
Villarreal continued to disappoint their fans this season as they slipped to a seventh draw in 13 league matches on Saturday after conceding a late goal to Celta Vigo in a 1-1 stalemate.
The Europa League champions are 12th on 16 points, closer to the relegation zone than to the leaders, and the pressure is slowly mounting on manager Unai Emery who faces a decisive Champions League game against Manchester United this week.
Villarreal are second in Group F, below United on goal difference, but if they lose on Tuesday and Atalanta beat Young Boys, they will fall to third with their hopes of reaching the next stage of the competition dented.
BARCELONA HAVE A REASON TO FEEL HOPE
Barcelona secured a 1-0 derby win over Espanyol on Saturday in club great and current manager Xavi Hernandez’s first match in charge.
Although it is early in Xavi’s tenure, Barca impressed in the game for their first victory in five league games in front of around 75 000 fans at Camp Nou — a positive sign for the club following dwindling attendance figures amid their slump earlier in the campaign.
Xavi’s next challenge will be on Tuesday against Benfica in what will be a revenge game for the team after they lost 3-0 in Lisbon. A win will ensure passage into the round of 16 with a game left.