PETE JENSON: Ten things we learned from LaLiga this weekend

Xavi’s blame game doesn’t wash, magical Antoine Griezmann is on the cusp of Atletico Madrid history – and Dani Carvajal’s gluten-free diet is bearing fruit! TEN THINGS we learned from LaLiga this weekend

  • Girona head for the international break with a two-point lead at the top of LaLiga
  • Pressure is mounting on Rafa Benitez with Celta Vigo still in the bottom three
  • It’s baffling why Guardiola sold Palmer to a rival club – It’s All Kicking Off 

La Liga’s final round of matches before the international break left Girona still top, Xavi still under pressure and Rafa Benitez still in the bottom three. 

Meanwhile, there was more magic from Antoine Griezmann and gluten-free Dani Carvajal is playing like it’s 2014. 

Here are 10 things we learned from the weekend.

Barça late for work again

There were only 38,185 in the Olympic Stadium to see Barcelona face Alaves, and those that took their seats late missed the first goal. Samu Omorodion scored after 18 seconds. That was two seconds longer than it took Granada to score against Barcelona last month. 

The worst thing about Sunday’s goal was that Barça had taken kick-off! They lumped it forward, it came to Ilkay Gundogan who lost it, and Alaves broke to score.

In-form Girona head into the international break with a two-point lead at the summit of LaLiga

Barcelona left it late against Alaves but triumphed thanks to a brace from Robert Lewandowski

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Xavi’s blame game doesn’t convince

‘The media is very critical and exaggerates and that affects the team,’ said Xavi. His excuses are becoming the stuff of legend. 

Last season it was the sunshine and the long grass after one draw away at Getafe. This time he went after the press. His reasoning doesn’t really wash. 

The younger players have not been criticised and, in fact, the player who has most been called-out, Robert Lewandowski, was the saviour on Sunday with two goals.

Carvajal’s form gives food for thought

There is no better right back in Europe at the moment than Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal and he scored the team’s first in the 5-1 win over Valencia. 

Last season the 31-year-old looked on his way out but his performances have been excellent this season and he has scored twice already, something he hasn’t done in a season since 2014. 

He credits much of his renaissance to following nutritionist Itziar Gonzalez’ strict dietary guidelines with plenty of broccoli and no more gluten. He’s convinced that has made the difference.

Xavi slammed the media for being ‘very critical’ of his Barcelona side despite their 2-1 victory

Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal is convinced that his gluten-free diet is making all the difference

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Football is a ruthless, unforgiving sport #1

Lewandowski lost his temper with Lamine Yamal after the 16-year-old winger tried to shoot instead of pass to him in the area. The Polish forward then refused to accept his hand in reconciliation. 

There was a social media pile-on but later Lewandowski would put his arm around the kid’s shoulder and explain to him why he was so upset. 

Football is ruthless and Lewandowski can’t treat Yamal any differently to anyone else; arguable Yamal wouldn’t want it any other way.

Football is a ruthless, unforgiving sport #2

Niko Mihic has left his post as Real Madrid’s chief medical officer. The Croatian doctor had been with the club since 2017 but he appears to have paid for the apparent mishandling of the fitness of Arda Guler. 

The 18-year-old Turkish prodigy, signed from Fenerbahce in the summer, still hasn’t played a single minute. 

He was back in squad for the Champions League game last week but did not come on and suffered another injury – a thigh muscle tear which could keep him out for another month.

Barcelona veteran Lewandowski lost his temper with Lamine Yamal (above) after the 16-year-old winger tried to shoot instead of pass to him during the Catalans’ comeback win on Sunday

Real Madrid’s chief medical officer has left after reportedly mishandling Arda Guler’s fitness

Griezmann nearly the new Aragones

Antoine Griezmann scored his 169th goal for Atletico Madrid on Sunday in the 3-1 win over Villarreal. 

He is now just four goals from Luis Aragones, the club’s all-time top scorer. 

Strangely he was 21st in the recent Ballon d’Or rankings, but he will very soon be all-time number one at Atletico Madrid.

You can’t ride two horses with one behind

Luis Campos is Sporting Director of Paris Saint Germain. And he holds the same position at Celta Vigo… for now. 

The club coached by Rafa Benitez is in the bottom three with only one win, but their illustrious manager will not be sacked. He doesn’t deserve to be after a run of late goals and dubious errors against them have halted progress. 

But there are still demands for someone to pay and so it looks as if Campos is about to lose one of his two jobs.

Rakitic’s class never fades

Ivan Rakitic, now 35, saved Sevilla on Sunday with a spectacular goal from outside the area. 

A lot is said about what a marvelous player and fantastic professional Luka Modric is but his compatriot has never been far behind him and he picks his victims just as his supporters would want him to. 

The former Barça and current Sevilla player has scored seven goals against Betis and six against Real Madrid.

Antoine Griezmann is now just four goals away from being Atletico Madrid’s all-time top scorer

Pressure is mounting on Rafa Benitez with Celta Vigo languishing in LaLiga’s relegation zone

Ivan Rakitic has matured like a fine wine and continues to impress in midfield at Sevilla

Part of Girona’s success is ‘Made in Ukraine’

Girona are league leaders after 13 games played, and with more goals scored than any other club. 

There are many reasons for their runaway start to the campaign but the clever signings of Viktor Tsyhankov and Artem Dovbyk from Dinamo Kiev and Dnipro has been key. They linked brilliantly for Girona’s first goal in their 2-1 win against Rayo Vallecano. Dovbyk now has seven goals in just nine goals.

Villarreal finally set to properly replace Emery

The announcement of Marcelino as Villarreal’s new coach is imminent. Unai Emery left in October 2023. Just over a year later, and after two missteps with Quique Setien and Pacheta, they will now have a man to take them forward. 

He has a lot to sort out but in Alex Sorloth and Gerard Moreno there is a strike pairing with 14 goals between them.


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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