Primera Division teams get their season cup and running

Last season’s bottom-half and promoted sides are targeting new heights after kicking off Copa de la Reina campaigns, writes Martin Whiteley.

Credit: @AtletiFemenino

While cup competitions dominated the women’s football schedule at the weekend, it was mixed fortunes for the Spanish Primera Division teams who resumed league duty following their midweek exploits.

This season, top-flight clubs are aiming to hit new heights as they enter the Copa de la Reina over two rounds, with last season’s bottom-half and promoted sides in action last Wednesday, before those who finished in the top eight begin their quest for cup glory in the fourth round at the beginning of March.

The expanded competition also gives promotion-chasing Segunda teams the opportunity to test themselves against top opponents in mid-season, with Espanyol and Alhama grasping the chance to show their Primera Division credentials by claiming big scalps last midweek.

The key thing for newly-promoted Alaves was not to allow their cup exit at the hands of the Pericos to have a knock-on effect in the league. Although they bounced back from their disappointment to earn a 1-1 draw with big guns Atletico Madrid, they’ll consider it two points dropped after allowing Sheila Garcia to nick an equaliser for Las Rojiblancos in the final 10 minutes.

Credit: @AthleticClubFem

The inability to hold onto leads becomes even more important when every point could turn out to be vital. Boosted by their emphatic cup triumph over Real Oviedo in midweek, relegation-threatened Sporting Huelva managed to rescue a crucial point in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Levante, thanks to Anita Marcos’ equaliser.

High-flying Athletic Club added to their cup rout over Racing with a 2-1 victory at basement Rayo Vallecano on Sunday. Boosted by their own Copa de la Reina win over Malaga, the bottom-placed side looked to have earned a vital point until Nekane Diez’s late winner broke their hearts on 86 minutes.

But scraping through on penalties against second-tier side Logrono no doubt took its toll on Villarreal who lost 4-1 to second-placed Sociedad on Saturday.

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Eibar recovered from their shock cup defeat by Segunda south team Alhama with a 2-1 victory over Madrid CFF in the league but Real Betis, who had edged past Granada, were brought back down to earth with a bang after being thrashed 4-0 by champions Barcelona.

At the moment, there are only five points between Sevilla in sixth place and Real Betis down in 10th position. The key for any of these teams is to avoid a losing run and take as many points as possible from the teams around them. It’s a strategy that Real Madrid carried out to perfection at the weekend.

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After a disastrous start to the campaign for the side from the capital, they moved up to seventh place in the league when they came from behind to win 3-1 at home to Sevilla — their fourth victory in the last five Primera Division games.

At the moment in Spain, there are only a small number of sides locked in a battle for anything besides all-conquering Barcelona but those teams who’re vying for Champions League spots and looking to stave off relegation will have another chance to boost their causes during a full card of fixtures this Wednesday.

With the added incentive of entering the cup at a later round for finishing in the top eight, many more clubs will be desperate keep their performance levels high as the season draws to a close.

Follow Martin on Twitter @673martin

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