Five things we learnt from Spain La Liga

AFP , Monday 19 Sep 2016

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both hit five ahead of their showdown on Wednesday, but continue to trail league leaders Real Madrid

Here, AFP Sports looks at five things we learnt from the fourth round of La Liga this weekend:

James takes his chance to shine

Without the ill Cristiano Ronaldo and injured Gareth Bale, Real Madrid laboured for 45 minutes at Espanyol until James Rodriguez fired home the opener just before the break to pave the way to a 2-0 win.

Rodriguez was starting for the first time this season as the Colombian has slipped down the pecking order at the Bernabeu since the arrival of Zinedine Zidane in January.

Results have made Zidane's case. Real recorded a club record 16th straight La Liga win in Barcelona Sunday, but there is no doubt the top scorer at the 2014 World Cup possesses the ability to turn games on his own.

Doing so on a night the European champions needed him to, without Ronaldo and Bale, can only further Rodriguez's case for more game time in an upcoming frantic couple of weeks for Real.

Pressing Barca presents huge risk

Leganes tried to make Barcelona's first ever La Liga trip to the Butarque as uncomfortable as possible by relentlessly pressing the champions deep into their own half for the first 15 minutes on Saturday's clash.

The problem for the Madrid minnows was as soon as Barca resigned themselves to playing the ball long, the Leganes defence were left with just three defenders to cover the lethal strike force of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar (MSN).

All three South Americans were on target in a 5-1 thrashing that showed Barca's ability and willingness to play on the counter-attack on the rare occasions the opposition leaves plenty of space for the MSN to exploit.

Sevilla still can't buy an away win

Sevilla returned to La Liga action on the back of a very creditable draw away to Juventus to begin their Champions League campaign.

Yet, despite their success in Europe, Sevilla remain incapable of winning on the road in La Liga.

Jorge Sampaoli's men went 1-0 up through Luciano Vietto at Eibar and played the whole second-half against 10 men as the Basques' goalkeeper Yoel Rodriguez was dismissed just before the break.

However, Pedro Leon gave the hosts a share of the spoils before Eibar ended the game with nine men.

Sevilla have now gone 21 games and 16 months since they last won an away league match.

Atletico hit form in time for Barca

While Barca's front three hit four between them at Leganes, Atletico Madrid's frontmen went one better as Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres both scored twice and Kevin Gameiro lashed home his first goal from open play in an Atletico shirt in a 5-0 rout of Sporting Gjion.

Atletico's lack of killer instinct almost ended their title challenge before it began with draws against Leganes and Alaves in their opening two games.

However, they trail Barca by just a point and go into Wednesday's first blockbuster clash of the season away to the Catalans full of confidence after three wins, 10 goals and three clean sheets in the past week.

Valencia face relegation battle

Valencia's worst start to the season for 17 years continued with a 2-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao leaving them rock bottom and the only one side without a single point so far this season.

Los Che's miserable run comes despite not yet having faced any of Spain's four Champions League representatives and, with games against Atletico and Barca to come in October, Thursday's clash with Alaves is a must-win if Pako Ayestaran is to avoid becoming the latest coach axed by Singaporean owner Peter Lim.

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