LaLiga: Isco Disco, Messidependencia, the (Tony) Adams Family and brilliant Bilbao

Andrew Gaffney

THE BEST

Player – Isco

There comes a point when you literally have no idea what else someone can do to become a first team regular. Score goals? Check. Provide assists? Check. Make the team, on the whole, perform better? Check. Isco cannot do any more. At the weekend, against Sporting Gijon, he was simply sensational.

READ MORE: Gareth Bale injured, will miss Champions League tie against Bayern

Some would even say it was Isco’s best performance in a Real Madrid shirt. It may not be but it’s certainly top five. The entire team depended on the Spanish magician and he accepted that responsibility and led from start to finish. His confidence levels where through the roof and he made the team tick. He was the focal point. He was Real Madrid.

When you see Gareth Bale starting ahead of him you can understand the frustration from both Isco and the fans. Bale isn’t a bad player, of course not, he’s one of the best in the world, yet right now there’s no question Real Madrid look a lot stronger with Isco in the side. He’s someone you can depend on, rely on, and he’s becoming a match winner too.

It’s not as simple as replacing Bale with Isco either. If you put him out on the right wing it’s nullifying his talent. You need to create a space in the middle so Isco can cause the most damage. Zinedine Zidane’s flexibility and trust in his reserves is the reason they’re flying high. Isco needs to start more often, it’s up to Zidane to create that space in the team for him.

Performance – Athletic Club

It’s been a strange season to evaluate for Athletic Club. They remain in the hunt for the Europa League places in LaLiga but the disappointing exit from Europe took the wind out of their sails. They’ve perhaps lacked the same energy, the same drive this season but the performance against Las Palmas on Friday was superb.

The Canary Islanders play some of the best football in the country but they couldn’t compete against Ernesto Valverde’s men. From the opening whistle it was non-stop attack, endless energy and clinical finishing. You almost felt sorry for Quique Setien, who is leaving, as his Las Palmas team were systematically ripped apart. The 5-1 scoreline even flattered Las Palmas to a degree.

READ MORE: The full LaLiga table

At the age of 36 Aritz Aduriz continues to defy the norm. There’s no visible sign of decline in his style of play. He bagged a brace taking his tally to 14 in LaLiga, 22 in all competitions. Likewise Iker Muniain is back to his very best after injuries halted his development. The desire and self belief has returned and he can’t be far off a Spain recall. Iñaki Williams, too, looks unplayable. What an attacking trio to have at your disposal.

Goal – Lionel Messi

Now this could easily be given to Isco but we’ve talked about him enough so Messi’s goal just edges it for me. For a brief moment it was like watching the Barcelona of old as they stroked the ball across the pitch and it wasn’t just to pass the time or make an opponent tired but with real purpose. It’s crazy how often Messi walks around but finds a yard or two of space for himself.

READ MORE: The latest LaLiga results and fixtures

Samuel Umtiti started the crucial passage of play as he thread a ball through to Paco Alcacer. The former Valencia man almost lost it but got beyond his man and passed it to Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan took a touch, saw Messi available, and shifted it across to him. One touch and then bang, right into the bottom corner. Lethal.

THE WORST

Debut – Tony Adams

A lot of newspaper columns were written about Tony Adams this week. The former Arsenal defender was a surprise choice as Granada manager considering his CV. The majority of people decided it would be nice to poke fun at the guy. Of course they do this while sitting comfortably at home, most never taking a job abroad themselves.

READ MORE: Adams loses first game in charge of Granada

There’s plenty of reasons to admire Adams’ for taking on the task at hand. Granada are in free fall and it’s a club which is structurally flawed with far too many ‘temporary’ players. How can you expect them to care about the club’s plight when they leave in the summer? Simply put, most won’t. This is stop-gap for them but not for Adams.

However for everything is there to admire about Adams, the performance against Celta Vigo’s reserve team was poor. It’s impossible to get things across in such short time but this was one of their ‘winnable’ games. Instead, despite brief moments of quality, Celta were largely the better team. It ended 3-0 and the task facing Adams only becomes more difficult.

Penalty takers – Atletico Madrid

We often subconsciously class being awarded a penalty as a certain goal. How hard can it be to score from 12 yards out, right? Cristiano Ronaldo is mocked as ‘Penaldo’ because it’s so easy to stat pad your numbers with penalties according to his detractors. Yet what would Atletico Madrid do to have a capable penalty taker on their books?

They missed two penalties against bottom club Osasuna at the weekend. Both had different takers but ultimately the same result. Yet this is nothing new for Atletico as they have now missed their last SIX spot kicks in LaLiga! Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Thomas Partey added their names to the list of players who have failed to score. They’re joined by Gabi, Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann (2).

Thankfully for Atletico fans none of those six misses have meant they dropped points. Either way it’s concerning how poor they are from the spot, or maybe it isn’t as easy as we think?

Match – Leganes vs Espanyol

Let’s be honest, this fixture doesn’t immediately scream ‘Game of the Week’ to anybody, however these are two capable sides. Not the best in the division but still good footballing sides. Leganes are maybe in a different situation as they don’t score too often but they’ve posted draws against Atletico Madrid, Villarreal, Las Palmas, Eibar, Athletic Club and Sevilla. Not shabby.

Espanyol are in that position of being outsiders for the European places and safe from relegation. They came into the match with three wins from their last five though and in Pablo Piatti have one of the best wingers in the league.

Yet the match was a complete snoozefest. It was like two heavyweight boxers only throwing jabs with no real conviction. A long, long feeling out process. Leganes, ultimately, were content to take a point but their lack of ambition cost them at the death when Espanyol stole all three points.

No risk, no reward. Leganes remain in the thick of the relegation battle.

THE REST

– Deportivo beat Malaga 2-0 to ease their own relegation fears. Malaga weren’t at the races and the home side took full advantage to move nine points clear of the drop.

Valencia and Sevilla drew 0-0. It might appear boring on the basis of the result alone but the game itself was enjoyable. Two attacking sides, not famed for their defences, did everything but score. A draw was probably the fair result.

– Real Betis pulled off the shock of the weekend as they beat high-flying Eibar 2-0 at the Benito Villamarin. Eibar had won three on the bounce prior to the weekend but couldn’t find a way past Betis and an inspired Antonio Adan. They, like Deportivo, can practically consider themselves safe now.

– An injury hit Villarreal travel to Alaves tonight in the final match of this game week.

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