Thibaut Courtois was once again reliable for Real Madrid on La Liga week 31, denying derby opponents Getafe’s best efforts in a goalless draw. The result means first-placed Atletico Madrid have a three-point lead over Los Blancos after they steamrolled Eibar 5-0 in their fixture.
The Belgian goalkeeper was a €40 million ($47 million) addition from Chelsea in 2018, as reported by El Pais (Spanish). Courtois thwarted Liverpool in the second leg of Real’s quarter-final triumph in the Champions League, and his saves at Getafe, such as one to stop Enes Unal, extended his team’s unbeaten run to 15 games in all competitions.
It was not an ideal result for Real, especially against a side in the lower half of the table. However, without regulars such as Casemiro, Toni Kroos, and Karim Benzema starting, the point was gained by a weakened squad and means the team remains within reach of the summit.
Barcelona—buoyed by a four-goal Copa del Rey final victory over Athletic Club—have played one fewer league match than Real and would overtake Zinedine Zidane’s men if they win their game in hand.
Aiming to maintain pressure on the top three clubs, Sevilla faced a tricky test at Real Sociedad to open the round’s action and, after Fernando scored to start their recovery from 1-0 down, came away with all three points at the Reale Arena.
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Fernando joined Sevilla from Turkish club Galatasaray in 2019. According to Marca, the deal agreed was €4 million ($4.5 million), although some outlets claimed it was a €4.5 million ($5 million) deal. The Brazilian is typically a defensive midfielder but has been an offensive threat recently and now has two goals in two successive games after he also struck against Celta Vigo.
The signing was typically shrewd recruitment from Sevilla and their sporting director Monchi. Fernando arrived during a hectic transfer window for the Andalusians, when they also recruited current first-team players Diego Carlos, Jules Kounde, Joan Jordan, Nemanja Gudelj, Oliver Torres, Lucas Ocampos, Suso and Luuk de Jong.
Fernando, who turns 34 in July, seems equally comfortable at the base of the midfield as he did earlier in his career, and his striking instincts come as an unexpected bonus at this moment of the season.
At the foot of the table, Alaves got the better of their relegation scramble against Huesca after midfielder Rodrigo Battaglia’s blistering effort secured a 1-0 win and bolstered their odds of survival, with coach Javier Calleja now in charge.
Battaglia, a loan signing from Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon, was the surprise protagonist for a team without a victory in eight league games. Goals—especially in open play—have been scarce for Alaves and their misfiring forwards. Joselu provides an occasional threat, but his forward partner Lucas Perez has not scored in 2021.
The victory is a massive lift for Alaves, one of many teams scrapping to avoid second division soccer next campaign. With seven match-days left, it remains tight at both ends of the table.