La Liga Weekend: Sevilla Hold on for Huge Win in El Gran Derbi

El Gran Derbi

When El Gran Derbi comes to La Liga it’s always the biggest story. The rivalry between Sevilla and Real Betis is always one of the best games in Spain, and Saturday was no different. With both Sevilla and Betis needing points in El Gran Derbi to keep their European hopes alive, to the viewers went the spoils.

La Liga Weekend: Sevilla Big Winners in El Gran Derbi

Sevilla 3-2 Real Betis

El Gran Derbi is always one of the fiercest games in Spain every year. Betis came into this game knowing that only a win would keep them alive for European places. Sevilla, on the other hand, knew a win would take them back into fourth place, something that seemed impossible when they fired Pablo Machin.

But Sevilla were ready for this game. They had already turned their season around, four wins out of five coming into this game. Pablo Sarabia revealed after the game that they had heard Joaquin’s comments from a couple of weeks ago as well. Sevilla came out hotter than the crowd; so ready for this matchup.

They took a deserved lead into halftime after a lovely header from Munir El Haddadi. Sevilla controlled the first half against a Betis side that had no cohesion. Nothing that Real Betis does with the ball should surprise you. They keep possession, moving it from side-to-side rarely making any real moves towards the goal.

Second Half

Luckily for all of us, Betis came out with much more intent to start the second half. They were creating chances early on, but they would die out, usually when Jese touched the ball. The Paris Saint-Germain loanee was not good in this game. Makes you wonder what Betis could do if they had a real centre-forward in their team.

Despite that, they still managed to score the equalizer thanks to a lovely finish from Giovani Lo Celso. The other PSG loanee has been much much better than Jese. Lo Celso has really found his feet in La Liga and has turned himself into a really good creative midfielder. For 20 minutes or so it really felt like Betis could go on and win this game.

However, in football, you are at your most vulnerable when your confidence is at it’s highest. And right on the hour mark, Sevilla hit Betis for two game-sealing goals. The first was a lovely finish from Pablo Sarabia and the second was a fantastic strike from Franco Vazquez. Cristian Tello scored a lovely free-kick in the 82’ for Betis, but it was not enough to steal Derby points.

The three points send Sevilla back into fourth place, vindicating sacking Machin for Joaquin Caparros. Caparros has simplified things at Sevilla and given players that looked exhausted a month ago new life. Now they head into a massive clash with Getafe next Sunday to continue the battle for fourth place.

Huesca 0-0 Barcelona

Barcelona came into their game against Huesca looking to make major rotations. They had just completed a strong performance against Manchester United in Europe, and face them again on Tuesday. So Ernesto Valverde made 10 changes from the Champions League game. To the fans liking youngsters like Jean-Clair Todibo, Riqui Puig, Moussa Wague and Carles Alena all got starts in La Liga.

They played in a makeshift 3-5-2 formation, with Malcom playing as one of the wingbacks, and Arturo Vidal sitting in front of a Todibo-Jeison MurilloSamuel Umtiti back three. The formation was surprisingly solid. Huesca made a clear effort to attack the right side, where youngsters Wague and Todibo patrolled.

But they were ready for the challenge. Wague and Todibo were probably Barcelona’s two outstanding performers over 90 minutes. Todibo shut down everything that came at him and played really well in possession. He even had a few Gerard Pique-esq strides into midfield with the ball. Wague did well for himself, his talent is clear, but he looked much rawer than the other youngsters.

Riqui Pooch

However, the headlines out of this game will be the strong performance from young Riqui Puig. The 19-year-old has been Barcelona’s hottest young prospect for a few years now. He’s still tiny and looks closer to 10 than 20, but the boy can really play. Most of the best things Barcelona did at Huesca went through Riqui Puig.

He was getting the ball in deep positions and advancing it, either through a lovely line splitting pass or a calm dribble through traffic. He played with what the Spanish call “la pausa”, the patience to wait for a good opportunity to become a great one. He played a reverse pass into Ousmane Dembele in the first half that really, really looked like Andres Iniesta.

And as the Xavi comparisons were inevitable with Arthur, the Iniesta comparisons are for Puig. The kid is slightly like Iniesta, baby-faced like Iniesta and in a few years might play like Iniesta. But he’s not at that level yet. He looked good in 60 minutes against Huesca, the worst team in La Liga. For now, he just needs to keep growing and developing, following a similar path that Carles Alena has to the first team.

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