Seeing the Mendizorroza Stadium covered with snow the day before and given the freezing temperatures that threatened frost, those responsible for the incredible state of the pitch at the beginning of Sunday afternoon’s game between Alavés and Atlético Madrid deserve congratulations.
The two sides played out a bad first half before a better second, with Atléti securing the win thanks to a last-minute goal from Luis Suárez, who added to the opening goal scored by Marcos Llorente. Of course, we must give credit to Diego Simeone for Llorente, whose change of game has brought him goals. It was not Atlético's best performance but they managed to win and maintain their position as outright leaders.
Two points ahead of Real Madrid and two games in hand: that is Atlético's margin as leader. Any team would want that at this point of the season. But Madrid have picked up the pace and so Atlético will feel far from safe.
Barcelona way off the pace
They are the two candidates for LaLiga. The third, of course, should be Barça, but although they won yesterday against Huesca, it’s hard to see them as such. I don't know what the future holds, but Barça's distance from the top is as disturbing as their lack of confidence in what they are doing, game after game. They started very well against Huesca, coming close early through Pedri and Messi while Dembélé looked threatening. But that lasted until the goal came in the 27th minute through Frenkie de Jong.
Messi played well until he got tired. Though, even when he is tired, all the best plays are created by him, as are most of the shots. But his moments of brilliance are not only less frequent than before, but also not as brilliant. It seems that Koeman has thrown in the towel with Antoine Griezmann, who has been consigned to the sad state of playing second fiddle to the hard-working Martine Braithwaite. Meanwhile, at the back, Barça’s lack of solidity is very apparent. As the match went on and Huesca broke loose, there were several scares for Ter Stegen.
The overall assessment of Barça's night is that they had a magnificent start, a good half hour and a tough final 60 minutes, with the risk of a draw constantly looming over them. It is very difficult to see them as title candidates.