🇪🇸 LaLiga's unexpected title challengers gathering steam | OneFootball

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Joel Sanderson-Murray·24 January 2023

🇪🇸 LaLiga's unexpected title challengers gathering steam

Article image:🇪🇸 LaLiga's unexpected title challengers gathering steam

Barcelona and Real Madrid both won, Sevilla gave their survival hopes a huge boost and the Real Sociedad bandwagon continues to tick along.

Here’s what went down on another pulsating weekend in Spain.

Highlights available in UK and Ireland only.

The last time Real Sociedad played in the Champions League, David Moyes was Manchester United manager.

La Real were in a group with the Premier League giants. Their future manager guided the then-English champions to top spot, while Sociedad finished bottom with no wins and one goal across their six fixtures.

Nine years after that showing, momentum is building around the club and there is a sense that the Anoeta will play host to that famous anthem once again next season.

A 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano at the Estadio de Vallecas on Saturday – where the hosts are usually strong and have beaten Real Madrid at this season – leaves Imanol Alguacil’s side in third place on 38 points, seven clear of fifth-placed Villarreal.

They are closer to the top of the table than they are to dropping out of the Champions League qualification places and maybe it is not to far off considering the LaLiga title race being three-teams strong and not just the usual two.

It’s five straight wins for Sociedad now – they haven’t tasted defeat since the end of October – and this past week saw them see off rivals Athletic Club to reach the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.

It’s all rosey in the garden in San Sebastian in a campaign that started in disarray.

The club couldn’t turn down €70m from Newcastle for their talismanic striker Alexander Isak in the summer but the bigger blow was losing his replacement, Umar Sadiq, to a cruciate ligament rupture in only his fifth game for the club after he had scored three times in his first four games.

Alguacil has been boosted by the shock form of Alexander Sørloth. The former Crystal Palace striker was up for transfer in the summer but no takers came forward and now Sociedad are feeling the benefits.

The Norwegian has 12 goals in all competitions, including one in the win over Rayo, scoring in each of his last five league appearances.

Centre-back Robin Le Normand and midfielder Mikel Merino are proving to be in the conversations amongst the best players in their positions in the league, while David Silva has added a scrappiness to his undoubted technique at the grand young age of 37.

And the cherry on the top of the cake? Mikel Oyarzabal is back in action after a 10-month injury layoff.

There’s still half a season to go but Champions League football is a real possibility for Alguacil’s fashionable bunch.

And elsewhere …

Sevilla left it late but got what could prove to be a vital win in their battle to stay in the top flight.

Real Madrid followed up their midweek Copa del Rey comeback with a resilient victory at San Mames to keep pace with Barcelona at the top.

😱 Goal of the Weekend

Cool as you like from Álvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann for Atlético Madrid’s first goal here.

🥇 Player of the Weekend

Nacho Fernández (Real Madrid)

Article image:🇪🇸 LaLiga's unexpected title challengers gathering steam

Nacho isn’t one of Real’s most stylish names but his performance was crucial to the victory over Athletic Club on Sunday.

The 33-year-old is out of contract in the summer but reports this week stated he could be in line for an extension and on his display in Bilbao it will be completely warranted.

Operating out of position at right-back, he produced six vital clearances and won four out of five of his aerial duels as the hosts bombarded Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the second half.