I haven’t seen the La Liga this exciting in years, as the title race heats up further with three serious contenders.
Atletico Madrid still leads in the standings with 58 points, but Barcelona (53 pts.) at fourth, has sprinted to second spot ahead of Real Madrid (52 pts.).
Barcelona made the leap at the expense of fourth-place Sevilla (48 pts.), which it defeated 2-0 away at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
But it was the unusual manner with which the Catalans won that made a buzz in the football community.
Ronald Koeman, still smarting from the 4-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Champions Leg Round of 16 two weeks ago, changed tactics against a formidable Sevilla side.
Shortly after the loss to PSG, Barca drew 1-1 with Cadiz, then won against Elche 3-0, both at home in the La Liga.
In all three matches, Koeman utilized Barca’s standard 4-3-3 formation.
But surprisingly against Sevilla, Koeman shifted to 3-5-2, with Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembélé up front.
Frenkie de Jong and Jordi Alba served as attacking midfielders, Sergio Busquets as holding midfielder, Pedri as left winger and Sergiño Dest as right wing-back, while Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Oscar Mingueza formed the back three in front of keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
And for the second match in a row, Koeman dropped Antoine Griezmann from the starting lineup, and didn’t play him against Sevilla.
The result of the tactical shift was a convincing 2-0 win that could alter the course of Barca’s season for the better.
But another La Liga game changer awaits this Sunday as league leaders Atletico Madrid host Real Madrid in a crucial derby at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano.
If the Los Blancos win, they will not only regain second spot with 55 pts., they’ll just be three points behind the league leaders, which have seen a drop in form and mixed results of late.
An Atletico win, on the other hand, would provide Diego Simeone’s side a huge morale and momentum boost in their elusive title hunt.
Whatever the result, things could only just get excitingly better in the Spanish League.
March 01, 2021
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