In the aftermath of Luis Enrique’s announcement that he would be stepping down as Barcelona manager at the end of the season, all eyes were on the Nou Camp to see how the starting eleven reacted with what is likely to be their last Champions League game of the season only days away. Celta Vigo lost 6-1 at the magnificent stadium last season and were fortunate not to suffer quite as badly this as Barcelona produced arguably their best performance since that game to win 5-0 and provide some, tiny, ridiculous hope that they do have a chance of overturning a 4-0 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday. Neymar shone but it was Lionel Messi who found the net twice, with Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti joining the striking duo on the scoresheet.
Over in the Basque country, Real Madrid had it all to do with no Gareth Bale through suspension and Cristiano Ronaldo also sidelined by injury, but Karim Benzema stepped up to the plate for BBC and scored a first half brace to allay any fears after a defeat to Valencia was followed up by a narrow comeback win over Villarreal and a late draw against Las Palmas.
It seems increasingly possible that it will be a fight between the two Clasico clubs for the title as Sevilla were held at Alaves after taking a first-half lead through Wissam Ben Yedder on Monday evening. Alaves showed strength and determination but their grit was enough to halt the attacking power of Jorge Sampaoli’s side, who fell four points behind leaders Barcelona.
They are still comfortable in third, though, with a seven point advantage over Atletico even with their comfortable win over Valencia this weekend. Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann twice found the net either side of a Kevin Gameiro strike, condemning a woeful Valencia to another defeat, worsened only by the fact that the visitors missed their return train to the east coast and were forced to travel back by bus.
It was a good job that Los Colchoneros did secure the win, as Real Sociedad continue to apply the pressure and are just one point behind after they held the lead on three separate occasions to see off Real Betis in Seville. Xabi Prieto scored two important goals to ensure that the Basque team maintain the pressure on the top four.
Villarreal are also fighting to ensure that they remain in the discussion, and they did so effectively by all but writing off Espanyol’s hopes of a Europa League spot with a surprisingly routine victory as Roberto Soriano scored on the stroke of half-time before Diego Lopez was the unfortunate victim ten minutes from time to find the ball cannoning off him and into his own net.
At the bottom, there were two crucial fixtures this weekend as Leganes fought desperately hard to put an end to Granada’s resurgence, but it was Granada’s own player who caused their downfall as loanee Darwin Machis found the net with only seven minutes left on the clock to see the minnows climb five points ahead of their opposition.
Deportivo A Coruna are the team sandwiched in between those two, and they two secured a vital win away at El Molinon against Sporting Gijon with Pedro Mosquera on the scoresheet. With 12 games left, that leaves Granada four points off of the Galician side, with Sporting now six points away from safety.
Things could be worse, though, as Osasuna showed on Sunday afternoon. Defender Unai Garcia scored a calamitous own goal to give Las Palmas the lead after the Pamplona side had fought back from behind to take the lead. Osasuna remain on just ten points this season, but collapsed from that moment on with relegation now all but certain for the side who only got promotion from the second division last season.
Those results could give Malaga cause for concern too, though, as they will now find only seven points between them and the drop zone when they look over their shoulder after yet another defeat to Athletic Bilbao through a Raul Garcia penalty in the second half.
Find this weekend’s results in full below…
Real Betis 2-3 Real Sociedad
Leganes 1-0 Granada
Eibar 1-4 Real Madrid
Villarreal 2-0 Espanyol
Barcelona 5-0 Celta Vigo
Sporting Gijon 0-1 Deportivo A Coruna
Atletico Madrid 3-0 Valencia
UD Las Palmas 5-2 Osasuna
Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Malaga
Deportivo Alaves 1-1 Sevilla
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