La Liga

La Liga, Round Four: De Jong on song and Benzema remains Real's man

Granada win well away, Fati continues to shine and James confounds critics

 
11:09am on Wednesday 18th September 2019
By
Paul Macdonald

Barcelona and Real Madrid look a little more like themselves.

For now, at least. Both recorded good wins, though Real were made to work a little too hard in the second half by Levante. Elsewhere Real Sociedad, replete with new stadium, ended Atletico's 100% record.

Granada have taken to life back in La Liga following promotion extremely well, and though Celta helped them out by lacking discipline, the veteran Angel Montoro grabbed the game and dominated proceedings. With Celta down to nine men, Montoro stepped up, providing two assists, had 106 touches (35 more than the next player) and completed 92 passes, a 91% total overall. Granada are level on points with Barcelona at this stage.

Is Gerard Moreno still underrated? The Villarreal forward is enjoying the richest scoring spell of his career, having hit nine goals in his last 10 appearances, with a minute-per-goal ratio of 75.8. Here against Leganes his second goal was an opportunist effort but his first displayed all of his class, controlling neatly in the area before side-footing brilliantly into the net. There could be more to come.

Without question, Karim Benzema has been Real Madrid's most important player over the last 12 months. Without the Frenchman's leadership and prolific goalscoring, it could have been a whole lot worse for los Blancos. And despite the arrival of numerous attacking options, Benzema remains indispensable. His first goal, a brilliant header in between defenders, the second, composure personified, converting James' assist. Karim's going nowhere.

De Jong has assimilated into the Barca way with ease. Here, with capable assistant from emerging superstar, 16-year-old Assumane Fati, he destroyed Valencia. He assisted Fati with a neat pass for the opener, then converted minutes later when Fati returned the favour. Oh, and he completed three dribbles, created one big chance, and completed all 54 - 100% - of his passes.

He's back and it's as if he's never been gone. Suarez has been carrying an injury but burst off the bench and manage to score two beautiful finishes in his 30 minutes on the pitch. Antoine Griezmann, Carles Perez and the aforementioned Fati may be jostling for selection, but Suarez offered a gentle reminder that he remains one of the best finishers in the business.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Assumane Fati (8.5) is not a star in the making, but a star of now, breaking records and providing brilliant finishes - and devastating assists - of a player twice his age.

In a game with two penalties misses, Mallorca shot-stopper Manolo Reina (8.4) contributed to one of them, keeping out Aritz Aduriz and making another five saves besides on the way to a clean sheet.

James (8.4) appeared to be surplus to requirements at Madrid this season but he is setting out to prove everyone - including boss Zinedine Zidane - wrong, with an display which included an intelligent assist for Benzema.

WEEKEND TO FORGET

Jasper Cillessen (4.2) enjoyed the worst possible return to Camp Nou by conceding five including making a horrible handling error for Gerard Pique's effort.

Mallorca forward Ante Budimir (5.3) managed just 16 touches in 75 minutes against Athletic, hitting no shots, and losing the ball 50% of the time he touched it. Yeah, not great.

Francisco Peinado (5.0) managed to effectively end Celta's chance of winning against Granada by taking his team down to nine men for a stupid red card.

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