January 27, 2020 / 10:52 AM / 21 days ago

Talking points from the weekend in La Liga

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid’s strength in depth, and a tricky start for Barca’s Quique Setien. Plus are we reaching the end of the Diego Simeone era at Atletico? Here are the weekend’s talking points from La Liga:

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Valladolid v Real Madrid - Estadio Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid, Spain - January 26, 2020 Real Madrid's Nacho celebrates scoring their first goal with Sergio Ramos and coach Zinedine Zidane REUTERS/Juan Medina

Real Madrid squad depth the difference as Setien’s teething problems continue at Barca

Nervy, narrow wins in Quique Setien's first two games in charge, against Granada and Ibiza, left the Camp Nou faithful underwhelmed. And they were left seething on Saturday as they were outplayed by an injury-depleted Valencia side who won 2-0.

Barca looked devoid of ideas other than passing the ball to Lionel Messi - a problem that cannot be said of their great rivals Real Madrid, who are finding ways to win games from unlikely sources.

Following defensive midfielder Casemiro’s double to get them over the line against Sevilla last week, this time it was the turn of backup defender Nacho to become the hero as he expertly steered in a Toni Kroos cross to lift Real on to 46 points, three ahead of Barca after 21 games.

Diego Simeone: the end?

Few can argue against Diego Simeone’s place in Atletico Madrid’s history, having led the side to an improbable La Liga crown in 2014, as well as two Champions League finals since taking over in 2011.

However it is looking as if time may nearly be up for the Argentinian in the Spanish capital. The side appear to have forgotten how to score goals and another meek display at home against second-bottom Leganes means Atleti have now drawn nine of their 21 La Liga matches this season, slipping out of the top four behind Sevilla and Getafe.

With Real and Barca in periods of transition, Atleti were expected to launch another title tilt this campaign, but they look far away from Spain’s “big two”. With the in-form Valencia and Real Sociedad breathing down their necks, there is a real chance they could miss out on European football altogether next term.

The strangest end to a game you will ever see?

While Leganes’s trip to Atletico was not a classic, fans were treated to a bizarre final five minutes as away keeper Ivan Cuellar was shown a second yellow card of the afternoon – both for timewasting.

Cuellar, who had infuriated the Metropolitano all match with his leisurely approach to goal kicks, appeared to throw the ball back at the ball boy after the youngster had tried to hurriedly get the ball back into play with 90 minutes on the clock.

The ball boy then gave him the ball back, prompting Cuellar to square up to him before dramatically collapsing after being nudged. Far from eliciting sympathy from referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz, Cuellar was given his marching orders.

Having made all three substitutions, defender Jonathan Silva had to put on the keeper’s gloves for the remainder of injury time, but not before Cuellar had caused more trouble by refusing to leave the pitch.

The keeper almost sparked a 22-man brawl as he picked fights with the Atleti players while slowly trudging towards the sideline, dramatically hitting the deck on more than one occasion as he did so.

Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by David Holmes

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