La Liga Fans’ Top 5: Barcelona trio Messi, Suarez and Neymar dominate

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Barcelona trio lead Valora Futbol Fans' top five ratings.

Each week, Sport360 will be bring you the best five players from La Liga, as chosen by you the supporters through our ValoraFutbol fan ratings tool.

YOU have direct influence on who appears in each Top Five so be sure to rate each weekend.

1) LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA) – 8.64

The Argentine genius opened the scoring with a trademark magnificent free-kick, his fifth direct goal from a set-piece this season, before he produced a memorable moment which will be talked about for years to come in the second half.

At 4-1 to Barcelona, the game was sealed, but the entertainment certainly wasn’t over. Messi won a penalty through his trickery and stepped up to take the kick, but instead of shooting, he rolled a short square pass to team-mate Luis Suarez to rush in and score for his hat-trick.

It was an unselfish act by the Nou Camp legend but Barcelona look seemingly unbeatable at the top of the La Liga table and Suarez has pulled clear of Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi standings.

2) LUIS SUAREZ (BARCELONA) – 8.62

In any other La Liga Valora Futbol Fans’ Top 5 ratings, ex-Liverpool ace Suarez would have topped the bill for his hat-trick in Barcelona’s 6-1 demolition of Celta Vigo, but Messi’s brilliance deserved to be rewarded by you.

The 29–year-old upped his goal tally to 23 La Liga strikes this season, two more than Real Madrid’s Ronaldo, and he showed terrific understanding with Messi to convert their trickshot penalty – eleven years on from Robert Pires and Thierry Henry’s unsuccessful attempt at the same spotkick for Arsenal.

3) NEYMAR (BARCELONA) – 8.09

The star Brazilian was a constant menace for the Celta Vigo defence all evening and was rewarded for his efforts with a goal in the dying moments of the match.

Neymar showed typical poise and composure to lift the ball over the goalkeeper to make it 6-1, having earlier set up Suarez when his angled shot, which was probably going in anyway, was tucked home by the Uruguayan.

The 24-year-old has been instrumental to Luis Enrique’s men this term, netting 17 goals in the Catalan giants’ pursuit of yet another La Liga title.

4) JONATHAS DE JESUS (REAL SOCIEDAD) – 7.62

Brazilian Jonathas netted his sixth goal of the season in Real Sociedad’s comfortable 3-0 home success over Granada.

The 26-year-old had Carlos Vela to thank for his goal as the striker latched onto a curling cross to steer a side-footed volley into the bottom corner of the goal.

5) MIKEL OYARZABAL (REAL SOCIEDAD) – 7.41

Teenage midfielder Oyarzabal bagged a brace as the Basque side moved into the top 10 in the La Liga table with a win over Granada.

The academy graduate opened the scoring in the first half after he collected a pass from Yuri Berchiche and tucked the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs.

The 18-year-old doubled his account for the afternoon by converting Vela’s cutback to seal the home rout.

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Phil Ball: Win for Neville, Sevilla smiles, Messi penalty

Phil Ball 15/02/2016
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Neville's picked up his first win as Los Che boss, Sevilla continue their great form and Barca's penalty show.

I’m not sure of any unifying theme amongst this week’s tales from La Liga, but there’s certainly plenty to talk about.

In the absence of any big battles among the higher-placed clubs, the game that pitted Valencia against Espanyol had the Spanish press playing gleefully with their metaphors. ‘One of them must fall’ was one of the better ones, and it referred of course to the two coaches, Gary Neville of Valencia and Constantin Galca of Espanyol. This was because Valencia, who slugged out a home semi-final cup-tie draw in midweek against Barcelona’s ‘B’ side – the first leg was a 7-0 win for the ‘A’ side – were at the very limit of their patience with Neville, yet to reward them with a league win and the club sliding towards the relegation zone. Galca, on the other hand, a Romanian ex-Espanyol player from the late 1990s (he also played for Villarreal and Almeria) was handed the Espanyol job just before Christmas after Sergio Gonzalez was fired by the club’s Chinese owners. He started well enough, but after nine games the team has accumulated a mere five points and put him in the firing line. Last Monday, after the 6-0 drubbing at the Bernabéu the previous week, the team capitulated at home to Real Sociedad, with the 5-0 scoreline equalling the Basques’ best ever away result. Espanyol looked poor, very poor, and would have wished for anything but a trip to Los Che, where the home team were similarly obliged to win.

Well finally they did, 2-1, but it was hardly a convincing performance from Valencia, who had to come back from a goal down. Perhaps it was just that kind of game – a sort of dog-eat-dog scenario of desperation. Denis Cheryshev, on loan and part of the reason why the semi-finals in midweek were missing Real Madrid, managed to do something positive and scored the winner late in the second half. The result will save Neville, for whom a visit to struggling Granada next week will seem like an opportunity or a curse, depending on which way you look at it. Galca meanwhile, at the time of writing, has suffered no execution. The players have twice come out publicly in his defence, and pleaded with the owners not to change the bus-driver yet again. They may have a point, and Galca’s record so far, certainly in Romania with Steau Bucharest, suggests that he may be a good coach in the making. It would be nice if player-power, in this case attempting to ensure the continuation of a manager, could prove successful. Espanyol played well in the Mestalla, and probably deserved a result.

Returning to the King’s Cup, the other side to make the final was Sevilla, knocking out Celta in the Vigo rain. Sevilla have won the trophy twice in the last ten years, most recently in 2010, and coupled with their two consecutive Europa League titles the smile has returned to the Pizjuan. It continued on Sunday when the hosts easily dispatched struggling Las Palmas 2-0, a win that means they have now won their last eleven home games. That’s an interesting statistic, given that they lost their first two home games of the season and only managed two measly points from their first five games. The Pizjuan took a while to warm to coach Unai Emery – another man hardened by the purgatory of the Valencia experience – but they seem happy enough with him now. The team sit fifth, eight points adrift of fourth-placed Villarreal, so any thoughts of another appearance in the Champions League probably rest with them achieving an unlikely hat-trick of Europa wins, but you never know. If they want to achieve this, they’ll need to improve on their away form – which contrasts markedly with their home record. Amazingly, for a side in fifth position, they are yet to win away, scoring a paltry six goals in eleven trips.

Controversy has of course arisen this week over which stadium will be used for the final.  Spain has no real national stadium as such, and the only one that vaguely qualifies is La Cartuja, which holds 60,000 spectators and was built for the World Athletics Championships in 1999. Unfortunately, it’s in Seville. Last season, you may recall, the final was played in the Camp Nou, despite the fact that Barcelona were one of the finalists. Florentino Pérez had mumbled something to the Spanish Federation at the time about renovation work at the stadium, but none was subsequently detected. This season, with his club expelled from the competition and the Spanish Federation quite correctly putting him in his place, Pérez was unlikely to bless the competition with the use of his ground. During Saturday’s game at home to Athletic Bilbao, the fans chanted ‘La final de la Copa/No se juegue aquí!’ (The Cup Final shouldn’t be played here). Fair enough, I suppose. The Bernabéu (and its predecessor Charmartín) was turned into a de facto national stadium by General Franco and his cronies, and its 81,000 capacity makes it ideal – but the Cheryshev incident plus the fact that Pérez is never too keen on seeing Barcelona lift trophies on his soil means that the authorities will have to look elsewhere, probably to Atlético’s Calderon stadium, which holds a decent enough 55,000.

Up at the top of the league, the weekend was minimally conditioned by the return of the Champions League, in which only Real Madrid will figure this coming week (Barcelona and Atlético the following). Madrid kept up their good home form under Zinedine Zidane with a 4-2 win over Athletic, in which Cristiano Ronaldo temporarily returned to the ‘Pichichi’ (top scorer) position with another two goals, until Luis Suarez replied with a twenty-minute hat-trick against Celta on the Sunday night. Now Madrid must travel to in-form Roma on Wednesday evening, which will be an interesting game with regard to Zidane’s good start at the helm. With Barcelona looking more invincible as the weeks go by (their 6-1 pummelling of Celta was their 30th game without defeat), Madrid need to keep something more alive than the vague hope that the Catalans will begin to stumble in the league. There seems to be no sign of that happening, or of Atlético ceding ground either. The latter won 1-0 at neighbours Getafe, with a first-minute goal from Fernando Torres, adding usefully to the 100th that he scored last week for the club. Who needs Jackson Martinez, indeed?

One unusual talking-point from the Camp Nou game (in which Celta were drawing 1-1 until the 60th minute, amazingly), was the indirect penalty, take by Leo Messi and scored by Luis Suarez.  They don’t often happen – the first one was in the Belgium v Iceland World Cup qualifier in 1958) and when they do they’re often surrounded by controversy. Actually, as any re-run of Suarez’ strike will confirm, it’s not necessarily an easy thing to execute.

In the Bernabéu, Real Madrid by no means had things all their own way, with Beñat running the game for Athletic in the first half and Javi Eraso equalising Ronaldo’s early goal with a reply in the 10th minute. The fact that Real Madrid were 3-1 up at half-time was not a reflection of the game, but maybe the fact that they were able rise to the challenge is a point in their favour and a sign of their more collective spirit under Zidane.  The defence – somewhat improvised on Saturday – continues to look their weak point, but otherwise the team is playing with more freedom, as if they had been freed from the constrictions of the Rafa Benitez book of tactics and mind-numbing team-talks. Thus it seems, but the Roma game will be the proof of the new Zidane pudding.

On the same night as Madrid take on Roma, Barcelona will travel to Gijón to play the game that was cancelled in December due to their FIFA Club World Cup commitment. If they win it, and there seems little reason to believe that they won’t, they will go six points clear of Atlético and seven clear of Real Madrid. It might just begin to look like an unassailable lead.

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La Liga: Torres strikes to keep Atleti in title hunt

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Delight: Fernando Torres.

Fernando Torres scored in consecutive matches for the first time in almost two-and-a-half years as Atletico Madrid edged past Getafe 1-0 to leapfrog Real Madrid into second place in La Liga.

Torres has struggled to reproduce his best form since returning to his first club 13 months ago, but on Sunday evening he gave Atleti fans a reminder of the good old days with an instinctive finish at the back post.

With less than two minutes gone, the 31-year-old sprinted free from his marker at the back post and tapped the ball into the home net from Yannick Carrasco’s cross despite pressure from Getafe goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

Sevilla boosted their chances of European qualification as they stretched their unbeaten run to 12 matches with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Las Palmas at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Unai Emery’s team endured a frustrating opening hour against Las Palmas, but they eventually turned on the style and ran out winners thanks to goals from Kevin Gameiro and Ever Banega.

Real Sociedad made it eight goals in their last two matches as a 3-0 win at home to Granada moved them into the top 10 in the Primera Division.

Teenage midfielder Mikel Oyarzabal bagged a brace, with Cristian Jonathas also on the scoresheet in a comfortable victory against a Granada side who stay second from bottom.

Eibar boosted their hopes of finishing in the European places after beating struggling Levante 2-0. Borja Baston continued his rich goalscoring form by putting the hosts ahead after 37 minutes, and an own goal by Tono Garcia after the break sealed the win for the Basques.

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