x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Real Sociedad's Primera Liga charge reminiscent of 11 years ago

The Basques are flying. The only undefeated team in Spain in their past eight games, La Real have risen to fifth and are level on points with Malaga in fourth, writes Andy Mitten.

Real Sociedad ended Atletico Madrid's unbeaten run in the Primera Liga. EPA
Real Sociedad ended Atletico Madrid's unbeaten run in the Primera Liga. EPA

Atletico Madrid's 100 per cent home record in the Primera Liga is no more. After 13 consecutive wins this season and an unbeaten run stretching back 10 months, Real Sociedad beat them 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Second all season, Atleti have now slipped behind Real Madrid. They look good for a Champions League finish, as do the team who beat them. The Basques are flying. The only undefeated team in Spain in their past eight games, La Real have risen to fifth and are level on points with Malaga in fourth.

Philippe Montanier's side have lost once since the start of November – 4-3 at the Bernabeu when Xabi Prieto scored a hat-trick. The first team to beat Barcelona in the league this season, now they have halted Atletico's home run, again with a Prieto goal. Their top scorer, though, is the Mexico international Carlos Vela, 24, signed from Arsenal, where he spent seven years.

Montanier says Vela is the star of the team, yet he has played just once for Mexico since 2010 after holding a party before a game.

Mexico need him, but the Basques are happy to be the sole beneficiaries of Vela's talents.

La Real are showing an indomitable spirit not seen since they were beaten to the title 11 years ago, and a remarkable turnaround. In 18th after 10 games, pressure was mounting on their French coach, who had led them to a 12th-place finish last season.

European football beckons for the first time in a decade. Their neighbours, Athletic Bilbao, can only watch with envy.

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