La Liga Round-up: Barcelona stay top, Atletico and Real Madrid on their heels

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Barcelona stayed top of Spain’s La Liga after trouncing relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon 6-0. Barcelona have now scored 14 goals in their last two matches, putting their mini-crisis behind them and showing the defences of La Liga are no match.

Luis Suarez scored four times, twice from the penalty spot and twice from open play. Lionel Messi and Neymar also added goals as Barcelona continue to top La Liga on goal difference.

However, Atletico Madrid kept pace with the Catalans after defeating Malaga 1-0 at home. Despite Malaga having the better possession (51.3%) and a strong pass success rate (72%), Atletico came out winners. Angel Correa stuck in the 62nd minute for the Mattress Makers, yet an inferior goal difference means they are still behind Barcelona with only three games to play.

Controversially, at nil-nil, during a Malaga counter-attack a second ball was thrown on to the pitch. Investigations have shown Atletico Coach Diego Simone had instructed a ball boy to lob it on to the field. Simone will now be suspended for the next three matches for the incident as the title will be decided with Simone on the sideline.

Atletico will take on Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final this week, however, they will do so without centre-back Diego Godin. The defender missed Saturday’s game against Malaga due to injury.

Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid also kept pace with La Liga’s frontrunners, as the league’s championship comes down to the wire. Saturday’s away match against Rayo Vallecano didn’t start the way Zidane had envisaged as Los Blancos were 2-0 down within 15 minutes. However, goals from Gareth Bale on either side of a Lucas Vazquez strike put Madrid on top. Madrid sits third behind Barcelona and Atletico on 81 points.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed out on Saturday’s win after picking up a groin injury mid-week. Madrid are working feverishly to get Ronaldo fit for Tuesday’s Champions League tie with Manchester City. However, it has been reported there are doubts he will be ready to start against City.

Levante gave themselves a lifeline on Sunday snatching a draw against Athletic Club. Yet, the Valencia-based team could have had all three points after taking a shock two goal lead thanks to striker Casadesus and an own goal from Etxeita. Levante also had a goal from Giuseppe Rossi incorrectly disallowed for offsides.

However, Athletic Club fought back with a goal in the 88th minute from Markel Susaeta to make it 2-1. Mikel San Jose popped up in the first minute of stoppage-time to send home Inaki Williams’ cross to level things. Williams notched two assists in the game as things finished 2-2.

The draw leaves Athletic within touching distance of the final Champions League place and firmly cemented in Europa League qualification.

The spoils of the Seville Derby went to Sevilla on Sunday, as Los Rojiblancos downed Real Betis 2-0. Second half goals from Kevin Gameiro and Coke assured the team of their first La Liga win in five matches. Ever Banega was the best of Sevilla’s performers, notching a 77% pass success rate.

The win keeps Sevilla’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s Europa League still alive. Sevilla must still play Espanyol, Granada and Athletic Club this term.

Valencia and Villarreal both missed opportunities to increase their point totals. Valencia, still shaking off the effects of Gary Neville, could only draw 2-2 away to Getafe. The draw ended the club’s three match winning streak.

Meanwhile, Villarreal are now winless in their last three as the Yellow Submarine were held scoreless by Real Sociedad at home. Sociedad dominated possession at 59% and accumulated an 82% pass success rate.

In the final game of the weekend in La Liga, saw Celta Vigo move to fifth place ahead of Athletic Club after a 1-1 draw with Granada. Iago Aspas opened the scoring from the penalty spot for Celta, but Youssef El-Arabi levelled for the visitors in the second half. Aspas added another in the second half to put the home side on top 2-1. Celta dominated the match keeping 61% of the total possession. The result keeps Celta in contention for Europe and undefeated in their last six fixtures.

By Drew Farmer