Oblak hailed as world’s best

Goalkeeper Jan Oblak has been hailed as the best in the world by his head coach at Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone.

The 26-year-old Slovenia international has been an outstanding performer for Los Rojiblancos since his arrival from Benfica in the summer of 2014, helping Atleti reach the Champions League final in 2016.

Oblak has also excelled in aiding the men from Madrid to enjoy success in the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup.

And Oblak was at his best at the weekend as he made several fine saves in the 2-0 home win over Celta Vigo, with Simeone clearly thankful of having such a fine keeper at his disposal.

He told the Spanish media: "Jan Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world and we are very lucky to have him in the squad.

"I am very proud to have him in my team and for him to be in the dressing room at this club – he has improved a lot since he arrived at the club.

"When he first came, until February he had not played any games, but he's worked so hard to get a regular spot in the team.

"Right now, there is no doubt that for me he is the best goalkeeper in the world."

Atleti are back in action next Saturday afternoon, when they head to the Ipurua Municipal to take on mid-table Eibar.

The visitors are 6/4 to win the game, 6/1 to do so by a 1-0 scoreline and 7/4 to keep a clean sheet.

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Zidane back in charge of Real

Real Madrid have re-appointed Zinedine Zidane as their head coach, ten months after he brought an end to his first spell in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 46-year-old Frenchman was previously at the helm for Los Blancos between January 2016 and the summer of 2018.

Zidane returns in place of Santiago Solari, who took over at the end of October when former Spain boss Julen Lopetegui was shown the door a matter of months after being appointed by Real.

The World Cup winner has agreed a contract running until the summer of 2022, having previously led Real to three consecutive Champions League titles, as well as success in La Liga, the Spanish Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the European Super Cup.

His first task is to try and get Real back on track following recent exits from both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, while Los Merengues currently lie down in third place in La Liga, some 12 points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Zidane had earlier spent five seasons at the Bernabeu as a player, helping the club to win La Liga, the Spanish Super Cup, the European Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League.

The playmaker netted the winning goal in the Champions League final of 2003, as Real defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

His first game back in charge of Real comes on Saturday, when Celta Vigo are the visitors to the Spanish capital.

Los Blancos are 2/9 to win the game and are 13/2 to do so by a 2-0 scoreline, with a 1-1 draw available at 11/1.

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La Liga Review: Barca End Year in Familiar Surroundings

Barcelona 2-0 Celta Vigo

This was Au Revoir 2018 in La Liga and the year will end as it began – with Barcelona on top.

The reigning champions didn’t have it all their own way against Celta Vigo in the Nou Camp but ultimately did enough and it means Ernesto Valverde’s men head into the winter break with a three-point lead at the summit.

Highlights of the game

As if to outline his attacking intentions, Ousmane Dembele had been caught offside inside the first minute and had the ball in the net a mere eight minutes later.

Lionel Messi’s shot was saved by Ruben Blanco but Dembele pounced and the hosts were ahead.

It was a blow to Vigo who had threatened early on themselves through Sofiane Boufal, whose shot was blocked, and Nestor Araujo.

This was considered by many as the battle of sharpshooters and us fans certainly expected goals with Messi, Luis Suarez, Dembele, Iago Aspas and Gomez et al all on the pitch.

Chances were few but both sides were certainly focused on the attack as Jordi Alba saw an effort blocked and Maxi Gomez tested Marc-Andre Ter Stegenwhose record in this fixture is one he’d rather forget.

Some of Barca’s play was a joy to watch – a must for any La Liga 2018 highlights –yet Vigo continued to pose a danger and Hugo Mallo had time to fire a shot wide.

The second goal the home side needed arrived on the stroke of half-time and ended the match as a contest.

Alba’s fine pass found Messi in space and the Argentine maestro continued his red-hot form by sublimely finishing from the edge of the box.

Into the second half and, while Vigo did little wrong, Barca had a clear edge.

The lively Boufal, on loan at the club from English Premier League side Southampton, saw another effort blocked as the visitors tried to gain a foothold back into the match but the loss of Aspas to injury moments later was a clear blow and, as the 10-goal danger man went off, so did their best chance of a goal.

Brais Mendez went close with a curling shot as the spirited Galicians continued to battle but there was a feeling their efforts were in vain.

Suarez’s shot then went wide after another fine ball from Alba as Barca went in search of a third goal.

Nelson Semedo, returning to the team following an injury, called Ruben into action, while the sight of Phillipe Coutinho warming up would have done little to lift spirits in the away ranks.

Still, Vigo battled as Robert Mazanand then Fran Beltran saw shots blocked and Beltran kept Ter Stegen alert with another left-footed shot.

Coutinho, on for Dembele, and Messi both had shots as the home side finished strongly and, while a third goal would have been harsh on the visitors, the best team clearly won the day.

La Liga: Barcelona defeat Celta Vigo at home with a 2-0 scoreline

Barcelona players celebrate after Ousmane Dembele scored their first goal against Celta Vigo

Celta Vigo remain relatively comfortable in mid-table, closer to sixth spot and a European place than they are to the drop zone, but will need an improved second half of the campaign if they are to return to the Europa League next season.

They reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2017.

Key Statistics

The opener was Barcelona’s 101st league goal of 2018 – more than any other team in Europe’s big major leagues.

Messi, who added the 102nd, has now scored 15 goals in La Liga and is the division’s top scorer.

Messi is the only player from the top five European leagues to score 15 league goals or more in each of the last 11 seasons.

It takes his tally of career goals for Barcelona to 572.

Barcelona have now scored 19 more league goals (48) than the side nearest to them Sevilla (29) and twice as many as arch-rivals Real Madrid (24) – albeit having played one league fixture more than the Madrid giants.

Barcelona have now four league clean sheets in a row. They last conceded a goal against Atletico Madrid on November 24.

What’s next?

La Liga 2018 betting odds may change little during the winter break.

Barcelona are next in action against Getafe on January 6 and then travel to Levante four days later in the first leg of their last 16 match in the Copa del Rey.

The reigning champions then entertain Eibar on January 13.

Celta Vigo host Athletic Bilbao when they return to action on January 7 followed by another league clash, at Rayo Vallecano, four days later.



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La Liga: Can Celta Dampen Champions’ Christmas?

Barcelona vs Celta Vigo

The reigning champions sign off for Christmas at the Nou Camp with top spot in La Liga all but guaranteed.

However, us fans expect them to maintain their three point advantage at the summit with victory in this one.

Indeed, one suspects coach Ernesto Valverde would be disappointed himself if the club’s lead over Sevilla and the Madrid clubs is any less going into the winter break.

Talking Points

Last time out the league leaders ran riot which simply cemented why they are title favourites with La Liga 2018 betting odds.

Unsurprisingly, the main man in their 5-0 victory over Levante was the diminutive Lionel Messi.

That game, in which he netted a hat-trick and set up two, took his tally for the season to 14 goals and 10 assists.

No wonder the Argentine magician is considered the man who produces the most La Liga 2018 highlights single-handedly.

At the other end, Barcelona have also been productive this week.

The signing, on loan, of Valencia centre back Jeison Murillo (announced now, although he is ineligible to play until January) will strengthen a squad weakened by an injury to Samuel Umtiti and which, uncharacteristically, has conceded 19 goals in its first 16 league games this season.

The rear guard will certainly have to be alert against opponents who have the third best attacking record this season in La Liga with 28 goals – albeit some 18 goals fewer than the Catalan club.

Iago Aspas hopes to stand a chance against Lionel Messi and make it into La Liga 2018 highlights

Iago Aspas is expected to lead Celta Vigo in winning against Barcelona

Although in ninth spot, Celta are only four points off sixth place which is a guaranteed European spot, while in 10-goal Iago Aspas they have a genuine danger man.

He and Maxi Gomez have scored 18 of Celta’s 28 league goals this term and those two will be key to the away side’s chances of success this weekend.

Their problem has been at the back though where they have conceded 24 – only Huesca, Rayo Vallecano and Levante have conceded more.

They struggled last time out too as they were held at home by Leganes which left the Galicians, who had dominated long spells of the game, particularly frustrated.

It extended Vigo’s unbeaten run to three matches but, during the same period, Barcelona have won three in a row, scoring 11 goals without conceding any.

All in the all, the stats suggest we could be in for a pre-Christmas cracker with goals galore.


When you look at the recent history you can see why Barcelona are overwhelming favourites.

In 11 of the last 20 meetings, Barca have come out on top, drawing five and losing four.

From the last 10 matches played at the Nou Camp, Celta have managed to win only once while Barcelona have been successful on seven occasions.

More still, Barca have scored 18 times in their last five homes games against Celta, averaging more than three goals a game.

The last two La Liga matches between Barcelona and Celta have actually finished level, including a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp last season.

On that occasion Messi and Luis Suarez were on target but their goals were cancelled out by Aspas and Gomez Gonzalez.

The rematch last April also finished 2-2 with Aspas rescuing a point for Vigo, albeit against a weakened Barcelona who rested players with the title all but won and the Copa del Rey Final just days later.

They twice fought back with Jonny Castro also scoring after Barca had twice been in front through Osumane Dembele and Paco Alcacer, now banging in the goals for Borussia Dortmund.

Celta have actually won three and drawn two of their last eight La Liga games with Barcelona.

But they were thumped two seasons ago, going down 5-0 in the Nou Camp.

Betting Tip

Barcelona vs Celta Vigo Total Goal 2-3 @ 3.05
December 23, 01:30 (GMT+8)

Celta Vigo put up a spirited showing against Real Madrid last month but still lost and I expect them to lose this one too.

The odds naturally are weighted in the champion’s favour.

So much so, in fact, that 1X2 odds offer Barca @ 1.12 with Celta Vigo a gulf apart, rather than distant, @ 18.50.

The draw @ 8.25 even seems unlikely with these odds.

Asian Handicap odds are equally adamant that a home victory is the most likely result.

You can get odds of Barcelona -2.50 @ 1.81 and -2.75 @ 2.01.

In contrast, how about Vigo + 2.50 @ 2.13?

Even over 4.25 goals will only pay out @ 1.89 and total goal 4-6 @ 1.71.

?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.




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Is Solari Set for a Memorable La Liga Monday?

Celta de Vigo 2-4 Real Madrid

As interim periods in charge go, it could scarcely have been better.

Four wins from four, only two goals conceded and a confidence boost after the extremely brief Julen Lopetegui era ended in disaster.

Surely, Santiago Solari isn’t about to be given a job which, in football terms, is as big as it gets?

Highlights of the game

Whether he is or not, he can barely have had a better audition.

Granted, aside from winning this tricky test, Solari’s wins have come over third division Melilla in the Copa del Rey, Real Valladolid in La Liga and Czech side Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.

Real Madrid interim boss Santiago Solari looks delighted with his side's La Liga win over Celta Vigo

Real Madrid interim manager Santiago Solari smiles at the bench during his side’s La Liga match with Celta Vigo

But he could have done little more than he has in that time at the helm.

us and La Liga 2018 betting odds would have given him little chance of getting the position full-time, let alone part-time weeks ago, but wins change everything.

The side’s biggest boost came before kick-off when one of the shock La Liga 2018 news stories emerged from the Nou Camp.

That would have lifted spirits before a ball was kicked, and shortly after the 20th-minute loss of Casemiro to injury, they survived when Facundo Roncaglia headed against the post.

Moments later, Madrid were up and running.

A perfectly weighted through ball from Luka Modric found Karim Benzema, and the French forward showed neat footwork before calmly slotting home the opener.

Toni Kroos missed a sitter to double the advantage and were nearly made to pay before the break. Brais Mendez tested Thibaut Courtois when Iago Aspas was crying out for the ball to be played to him in the centre.

It was Aspas again after halftime as his header bounced wide.  After that, Benzema also curled an effort which bounced back off the top of the crossbar.

It was clear the next goal would be key, and it came Real’s way as Benzema pounced on a home defensive error to double the lead. His effort crossed the line via a deflection off the luckless Gustavo Cabral’s shoulder.

After playing their part in an even contest, Vigo seemed beaten. However, a moment of magic five minutes later brought them back into the hunt.

From Mendez’s through ball, captain Hugo Mallo watched the ball float over his shoulder and connected perfectly to rifle it into the bottom left-hand corner.

After losing both Casemiro and young defender Sergio Reguilon to injury in the first half, Madrid suffered a further blow when Nacho had to leave the fray for Los Blancos.

Courtois then denied Aspas an equaliser and it briefly looked like the visitors may struggle to hang on.

Yet, a wild challenge by David Junca on Alvaro Odriozola with eight minutes remaining saw a spot-kick awarded. Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos produced a cheeky ‘Panenka’ style penalty to restore their two-goal lead.

Home frustrations were evident when Cabral was shown a second yellow card in the closing stages. Dani Ceballos, who replaced Casemiro early on, then summed up that the fortune was with Real—they would argue it wasn’t earlier in the campaign.

Ceballos smashed a powerful fourth into the top right-hand corner from outside the box.

Spirited Vigo didn’t deserve to be so far behind and Mendez added a consolation in the third minute of stoppage time.

Yet, Real had the win, had plundered four goals away from home and are now in the top six, only four points off the pace.

Spanish league rules mean caretaker managers cannot be in charge of a club for more than 14 days. After that time, the temporary boss must be made permanent if they are to continue in the role.

This result will have done him a power of good.

Is Solari set for a magnificent Monday? We shall soon find out.

It’s over to Madrid’s hierarchy.

Key statistics

Three Celta Vigo players were booked in four minutes towards the end of the first half.

That angered Solari who said the forcefulness of their challenges often went unpunished, with Gareth Bale and Odriozola also carrying knocks late on.

What’s next?

It’s back-to-back away games for Real after the international break.

They travel to Eibar in La Liga and then meet AS Roma in Rome in the Champions League.

Two home matches follow in early December as Valencia visit the Bernabeu. and minnows Melilla are in town for the second leg of their Copa del Rey meeting.

It’s the second and third meetings in a month for Vigo against Real Sociedad.

They meet in La Liga in San Sebastian next before playing their second leg in the Copa del Rey (the score is poised 1-1 after the first leg), also in San Sebastian.

Celta entertain Huesca in a league fixture in between.




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Saul talks up Atletico’s quality

Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez is confident that his side will improve on the performances they have given in their two La Liga games this season.

Los Colchoneros began their campaign with a 4-2 European Super Cup triumph over city rivals Real, but have been below-par in their following two matches.

Their league opener saw them draw 1-1 at Valencia, while on Saturday they edged a 1-0 victory at home to Rayo Vallecano, with Antoine Griezmann scoring the only goal of the game.

However, Spain international Saul says there is no reason for concern, with the Atleti squad continuing a number of players who are still recovering from their exertions at World Cup 2018 earlier in the summer.

He told Marca: "We are not thinking about what people outside of the club are saying and ignoring any expectations.

"Every game has lots of complications and for us it has not been an easy pre-season with players returning – we are not yet at our top level.

"We do have plenty of self-belief and we will continue to work hard and fight for everything, we believe we will continue to improve and our quality will shine through."

Next up for Atleti is a trip to Galicia to take on Celta Vigo next Saturday, with the hosts having lost their last six La Liga meetings with the men from Madrid.

Los Rojiblancos are 3/4 to secure victory at the Balaidos and are 6/1 to claim a 2-0 victory, with Atletico 8/1 to be crowned champions of Spain this season.

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This was a Straightforward Spanish Sports Betting

As weekends go, it was fairly tame.

With the exception of one result, football games in La Liga all went the way the pre-match betting odds suggested.

Girona 2-0 Deportivo La Coruna

After a sixth straight home win, the unlikely Euro dream for Girona continues.

The unlikely relegation nightmare for Deportivo looms that little bit larger.

Girona are up to seventh after goals from Cristhian Stuani and Juanpe consigned Clarence Seedorf’s side to another defeat, and the Galician’s lacklustre response to going behind was telling.

Malaga 0-2 Barcelona

No surprise in a scoreline in which bottom hosted top.

Even before Samu Garcia’s 30th-minute dismissal, the result was never in doubt as Barca were 2-0 up by the time the Malaga man saw red.

Malaga are now 11 points from safety with 10 matches remaining.

Getafe 0-1 Levante

Undoubtedly the result of the weekend.

What a time for the relegation strugglers to secure their first win in 16 and give themselves a little bit of wriggle room in the bid to beat the drop.

Coke’s goal 11 minutes from time haunted Getafe who had wasted chance after chance.

Sevilla 0-2 Valencia

It would be easy to say Sevilla had one eye on their Champions League clash with Manchester United.

Whether true or not, this result means Valencia are 11 points clear of their rivals and in a commanding position to claim a Champions League spot.

A double from Rodrigo Moreno sealed Los Che all three points in the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Eibar 1-2 Real Madrid

It is no coincidence that Real Madrid have run into form when their talisman has run into form.

World top player Cristiano Ronaldo was the hero with a double, either side of an Ivan Ramis equaliser, for his 32nd and 33rd goals of what his critics say has been an average season.

No wonder boss Zinedine Zidane described the No. 7 as a player ‘from another planet’.

Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Leganes

A double from Raul Garcia was enough for Bilbao to see off Leganes.

The damage was done inside the opening 17 minutes and was the perfect way for the Basque club to bounce back from their Europa League defeat to Marseille.

Now they need to bounce back from that 3-1 reverse in the second leg.

Las Palmas 0-2 Villarreal

Both clubs had suffered early weekend blows with their nearest rivals winning.

This score was a while coming before Carlos Bacca broke the deadlock midway through the second half and Sansone sealed the victory with a late penalty.

Villareal are back up to sixth, while Las Palmas are now four points from safety after Levante’s surprise victory.

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Celta Vigo

Diego Simeone’s Atletico aren’t going to give up the second spot without a fight.

City rivals Real had briefly closed the gap to four points but an Antoine Griezmann super show restored that advantage.

The Frenchman scored the opener, set up Vitolo for the second and saw substitute Angel Correa round off the scoring against a Vigo side which had earlier hit the post.

RCD Espanyol 2-1 Real Sociedad

When Espanyol were one down to Willian Jose’s fifth goal in six games, they were in danger of dropping four points behind Sociedad.

Yet, the hosts were not prepared to end their six-match unbeaten run.

Second-half goals from Leo Baptistao and Gerard Moreno extended that sequence to seven.

Alaves 1-3 Real Betis

A good win at a tricky venue for Betis as they moved up to eighth.

Loren Moron’s double and a Javi Garcia goal, after Alaves had come back into the contest via Ruben Sobrino, sealed the points.

After a weekend in which they have gone up two places, they can be forgiven for thinking a late Euro push is a possibility.

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Marcelo: We are sinking

Marcelo accepts that the current situation at Real Madrid is the worst he has known since he joined the club more than a decade ago.

Real are 16 points behind leaders Barcelona after being held to a 2-2 draw by Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane's team were leading with eight minutes to go thanks to Gareth Bale's brace after Daniel Wass had given Celta the lead.

However, Maxi Gomez's late header ensured the match finished as a draw and 29-year-old Brazilian Marcelo admitted afterwards: "It is how it looks from the outside – we are sad, angry and we feel like we are sinking.

"It is one of the worst situations I've experienced here. We'll try to work hard and fight so we can win our next game but we don't like this situation at all. It's difficult because the more games you draw or lose the more pressure you are under."

Marcelo has won four La Liga and three Champions League titles since joining Real in 2007.

Real Madrid can be backed at 8/1 to win the Champions League again this season while they are available at 1/12 to win their next match against Numancia on 10th January.

Zidane's side have failed to win any of their last four away matches and are fourth in the table while Atletico Madrid are second and Valencia third.

Barca lose Umtiti for eight weeks

Barcelona face being without central defender Samuel Umtiti for around two months after he suffered a hamstring injury in the 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo.

The France international had to replaced 20 minutes from time in the Camp Nou, with subsequent test revealing that he will be out of action until around the end of January next year.

An official statement from Barca confirmed: "Tests carried out have confirmed that Samuel Umtiti has a hamstring injury in his right leg and he is expected to be out for around eight weeks.

"He will now miss the rest of 2017 and January of next year."

Head coach Ernesto Valverde, who is now likely to have to field Thomas Vermaelen alongside Gerard Pique in central defence, was downbeat about the news, adding: "Losing Samuel right now is a big loss, he was in excellent form."

Meanwhile, veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta will miss the midweek Champions League clash with Sporting Lisbon due to an injury to his left calf, also sustained in the draw with Celta.

However, the injury is not thought to be too serious and Iniesta is likely to be back in the fold for the La Liga trip to Villarreal next weekend.

Barcelona can be backed at 1/3 to win La Liga this season, while they are 6/1 to triumph in the Champions League.

Meanwhile, Egypt head coach Hector Cuper says he has received word that in-form Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is a potential transfer target for Real Madrid.

Cuper told ON Sport TV: "I've received confirmed news revealing Real Madrid's interest in Salah, but let's not rush things. To me, he is in an amazing position right now."

Salah has scored 17 goals in 22 appearances for the Reds since his £34million summer arrival from Roma.

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Top Seven Wins are Great for Football Bets!

The pace is picking up at the top of La Liga with the leading pack, all in red-hot form, winning each of their football games on a weekend of few surprises.

It makes for a competitive race for the title, with at least four teams in the hunt, and for Asian Handicap Betting players there are plenty of ways to win.

Barcelona 2-0 Malaga

Barcelona needed a huge slice of luck to stay four points clear at the top amidst plenty of controversies as the ball was clearly out of play before Lucas Digne crossed for Gerard Deulofeu to score the opener. Andres Iniesta’s second-half strike took a deflection, but hey; a win is a win!

Valencia 4-0 Sevilla

Marcelino’s Valencia continued its excellent run of form with a 4-0 thrashing of Champions League hopefuls Sevilla. Goncalo Guedes scored his second in injury time to add to goals from Simone Zaza and Santi Mina. Valencia stays second.

Real Madrid 3-0 Eibar

A comfortable home win keeps Zinedine Zidane’s team in the chase, still five points from the top, and they got on the way thanks to a Paulo Oliveira own goal. Marco Asensio’s and Marcelo’s strike were much more pleasing to the eye as Los Blancos strolled to victory.

Celta Vigo 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico shrugged off a disappointing run of draws with a hard-fought win against in-form Celta. The hosts were unbeaten in four after thumping Las Palmas last week, but Kevin Gameiro’s first goal of the season was the difference, though Iago Aspas came close for Celta.

Leganes 1-0 Athletic Club

Eleven points in five haves lifted Leganes up to fifth place in the Primera Liga after a single goal triumph, which extended Athletic Club’s winless run on the road to six games. Claudio Beauvue’s individual effort, beating two defenders before smashing home his winner, was worthy of three points.

Villarreal 4-0 Las Palmas

Las Palmas’ miserable run of form continued, but it was good news for the Yellow Submarine which has risen to sixth. After a goalless first half, Cedric Bakambu opened the scoring and Mario Gaspar made it two. Nicole Sansone rounded things off after an own goal had ended the contest.

Real Betis 2-0 Alaves

Real Betis are now five unbeaten after an Antonio Sanabria header and an own goal by the hapless Alexis Ruano wrapped up the points. It’s looking grim for Alaves, entrenched in the drop zone.

Levante 1-1 Getafe

A draw always looked a likely result in this mid-table clash, and so when Faycal Fajr opened the scoring for the visitors with a fine strike from outside the box, it was no surprise when Jose Luis Morales drew the hosts level four minutes later.

Real Sociedad 1-1 RCD Espanyol

In a game of two halves, Sociedad played the second with much more purpose after going behind to an early Leo Baptistao goal. Asier Illarramendi equalised on 69 minutes but was sent off in a bad-tempered finish as Real pushed for the winner in vain.

Deportivo La Coruna 1-2 Girona

Girona grabbed a valuable away win to pull away from the bottom three after Aday Benitez gave the visitors a great start from the spot when Raul Albentosa had conceded a first-half penalty. Early in the second period, Lucas Perez equalised with a penalty for Depor but then up popped Portu to slot home the winner.

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