Under Jorge Sampaoli, Sevilla is emerging as a title contender in La Liga and in Samir Nasri has one of the surprise revival stories in Europe on its hands.
After last week’s combined 17-2 scoreline for the big three in La Liga–Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid–this week provided a different set of results entirely and a fourth contender at the top of the table.
Barcelona had to come from behind to beat Valencia 3-2, the winning goal coming from Lionel Messi’s penalty (which is no easy feat given his previous problems from the spot and given that Valencia's goalkeeper is Diego Alves, who has the best penalty-saving record in Europe’s top five leagues). Valencia felt one Barcelona goal should have been disallowed, had a penalty appeal turned down, and claimed Sergio Busquets should have been sent off.
Perhaps more significantly, Andres Iniesta was injured in a challenge with Enzo Perez and face two months on the sidelines.
But the real news is with Sevilla, which briefly went top of the table over the weekend as Jorge Sampaoli’s thriving side beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 thanks to Steven Nzonzi’s goal. Atletico could have taken the lead in the first half, but Angel Correa squandered the opportunity. Diego Simeone was left ruing that as his side lost for the first time this season. He has claimed that Sevilla is a genuine title contender this season, and in Samir Nasri, has one of the surprise stars of the Spanish season so far.
“I have a relationship built on trust with the coach and that is invaluable,” Nasri, who was cast away by Pep Guardiola from Manchester City, told RMC Radio last week. “This club has been good for so many players. It has rekindled their careers and got them going again. Now I feel that happening to me.”
Real Madrid rode its luck to edge past Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at the Bernabeu, thanks to a late winner from substitute Alvaro Morata. That put it top of the table, three points ahead of fifth-placed Atletico. Talk about tight at the top.