Real Madrid rely on Keylor Navas; Luis Suarez and Neymar spark Barcelona
Dermot Corrigan recaps what you need to know from the weekend's La Liga action as Real Madrid and Barcelona won, although not very convincingly, while David Moyes got himself a win at Real Sociedad.
1. Keylor Navas the hero for Real Madrid
Real Madrid won 3-1 at Celta Vigo on Saturday afternoon thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Danilo and Marcelo, a superb result at Balaidos where Barcelona were hammered 4-1 late last month.
However, that was not the full story. Celta started slowly but after going behind they kept attacking and making chance after chance. The home side had 11 shots to Madrid's four in the first half, and 17 to 14 over the 90 minutes.
The reason they did not get into the game was Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who had at least four world-class stops made by half-time as Nolito, Iago Aspas, Pablo Hernandez and Fabio Orellana were all denied. The only shot to beat Navas was a late 25 yard thunderbolt from Nolito right into the top corner, as 10 man Celta kept causing the Madrid defence problems even after centre-back Gustavo Cabral picked up a second yellow for dissent in the 57th minute.
Madrid manager Rafa Benitez, possibly wanting to avoid "Keylor saves Madrid" type headlines, turned down a chance to praise his keeper after the game, instead making sure to note the work of his team while also complaining about the short turnaround after Wednesday's Champions League trip to Paris Saint-Germain.
Celta's coach and players were more open about how the game had actually been decided. Eduardo Berizzo said afterwards that "the difference was their keeper," while Nolito told Spanish TV that Keylor "saved three or four which I don't know how he did it."
While Madrid still remain unbeaten in all competitions this season, many at the club would prefer for their keeper to be getting fewer chances to shine each week.
2. Luis Suarez saves Barcelona
Barcelona beat Eibar 3-1 at home on Sunday, but again the scoreline does not even come close to describing the afternoon's events at the Camp Nou.
Eibar went ahead early with in-form young striker Borja Baston netting after a Marc Bartra mistake. Even though Luis Suarez soon equalised following a superb team move, the Basque minnows kept pressing the Barca midfield, who without the injured Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi lacked the technical ability to take the ball in tight areas, and kept winning the ball back high up and making chances to score.
The pattern was similar to recent home games against Bayer Leverkusen and Rayo Vallecano, and the end result was the same too. Suarez scored two more super strikes in the second half, from two more excellent assists from Neymar -- with Eibar in the end unable to match the sheer brilliance of the two South American superstars.
Amid all the distractions of Lionel Messi's tax case, his injury and the transfer ban imposed by FIFA, Barcelona's decision to shell out huge money to sign Neymar and Suarez has certainly paid off on the pitch.
"Luis Suarez brings us a lot," Luis Enrique told reporters. "What he gives you is priceless and unquestionable."
Without those two, Barca would be in much bigger trouble right now and with Javier Mascherano sent off late on for insulting referee Carlos del Cerro Grande -- using words which may bring a four match ban including El Clasico at Real Madrid on Nov. 21 -- they will need to continue to shine.
3. Atletico getting better, Valencia not so much
The scoreline was also misleading at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday evening as Atletico Madrid absolutely hammered Valencia 2-1.
Atletico controlled the game from start to finish, and it almost became too easy for them after first half goals from summer signings Jackson Martinez and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco -- with both players receiving huge ovations from the happy home fans when substituted late on.
Valencia's only shot on target all game was the penalty converted by substitute Paco Alcacer -- as an XI featuring only three players who were at the club before Singapore billionaire Peter Lim took charge a year ago were totally outplayed.
Both coaches talked about "hard work" after the game. Los Che boss Nuno claimed time on the training ground was the only way to turn around his side's poor start; Atletico's Diego Simeone praised the effort his new players had made to adapt their skills for the needs of the team.
Nuno's side look much worse than 12 months ago, while the machine that Simeone has built with a host of new parts keeps grinding on in a bid to keep up the pressure at the top.
4. Ever Banega's brilliant burst
Sevilla's 5-0 destruction of Getafe on Saturday night was the first time in La Liga history with three different penalty scorers in same game, and brought a first Spanish hat trick for Kevin Gameiro, but the real high point of the game was a superb display from midfielder playmaker Ever Banega.
Banega was on the ball 65 times during his 64 minutes on the pitch. It was his shot which was pushed out by Getafe keeper Vicente Guaita for Gameiro to bundle in the opening goal and then his excellently disguised free kick picked out the France international for 2-0. Banega later converted the night's first penalty to kill the game off five minutes after the break.
In just over an hour on the pitch, the Argentina international made two goals and scored one -- while making 65 passes, recovering possession eight times, and drawing a yellow card from his frustrated marker Juan Rodriguez.
The former Valencia playmaker has not completed a full 90 minutes since August due to injury issues -- but when he's in such devastating form he doesn't need long to decide a game.
5. David Moyes safe at Real Sociedad for now
A week which began with Real Sociedad sporting director Loren giving a lukewarm vote of confidence to coach David Moyes, and then reports suggesting the club were weighing up the cost of firing him, ended with relief from the Scot as his team won 4-0 at Levante.
La Real were always in control after Carlos Vela's first goal of the season just seven minutes into Sunday's lunchtime game at the Ciutat de Valencia. Aritz Agirretxe's header, Asier Illarramendi's first goal since returning from Madrid and Vela's second late on ensured a very convincing scoreline.
"I'm pleased we got the win," said Moyes afterwards. "We had to win, and we did. We need to get some momentum now. We've played much better than our results suggest."
The victory over a poor Levante side -- whose own coach Lucas Alcaraz was sacked on Sunday night -- does not immediately mean the former Everton and Manchester United manager has won over all the fans and pundits.
But it means Moyes, who after almost a year at the club has finally moved out of his hotel and into a new apartment in San Sebastian, can get on with his unpacking this week and not start considering a move back to the Premier League with Aston Villa.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan