Real Madrid returned to winning ways while Barcelona extended their lead on top of the table to double figures this weekend.
The second leg of Spanish La Liga was ushered this weekend with plenty of mixed results, from the top teams, to the mid-table sides and the relegation-threatened clubs. Barcelona and their arch-rivals Real Madrid posted emphatic victories over their opponents. But also Valencia’s defeat to Las Palmas and Girona’s resilience at Wanda Metropolitano provided the much needed entertainment.
Barcelona’s unbeaten run
Espanyol ended Barcelona’s 29-game unbeaten run in all competition with a 1-0 win in Copa Del Rey first leg this week. However, the Catalan giants still maintained their dignity in the league. A 5-0 victory over Real Betis on Sunday night ensured Ernesto Valverde’s men enter the second round without tasting a defeat. 17 wins and three draws leave Barca on the summit of the table with 54 points, 11 above their closest rivals Atletico Madrid.
Betis were brave enough to hold the leaders to a goalless draw in the first half. However, Barca came back much stronger in the second half where they bagged all the five goals. Ivan Rakitic broke the deadlock before Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez clinched their braces to seal maximum points. Barcelona however lost defender Thomas Varmaelen after picking an injury, shortly before half time. He was replaced by Samuel Umtiti who was returning to the squad from injury after two months.
Meanwhile, Barca fans will also be waiting for the debut of Philippe Coutinho, probably this week, according to sources. This would give the squad a huge boost in chasing the unbeaten record this season. But can anyone stop them now?
Zidane makes statement
Real Madrid bounced back from their disappointing 1-0 defeat by Villarreal in their last league campaign with a resounding 7-1 mauling of Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday. The win kept their top four hopes alive, taking them a point above fifth-placed Villarreal, and with a match still at hand.
Cristiano Ronaldo notched a rare brace this season, taking his league tally to six. Gareth Bale and Nacho also registered braces each with Luka Modric also making his name in the score sheet with a cool finish. However, before the fixture, pressure mounted on Zinedine Zidane with several fans calling for reinforcements this winter. Instead, the French international was adamant and maintained his confidence in the current squad. And this payed off against Deportivo.
Well, with the display at Barnebeu and the return of BBC, expect the nerves to cool down in few days to come. The league might be way far from their reach but still there are plenty of things to fight for. Zidane knows it better, you can’t just rule them out. Again, whether he survives from the ‘brutal’ Real management is also something everyone is keen on.
Olunga’s Girona in perfect shape
Girona are practically enjoying their best moments in the league since their promotion to the top flight. The Catalan club traveled to Wanda Metropolitano following their 6-0 triumph over Las Palmas last weekend. Kenyan striker Michael Olunga made history with a hat rick and was rewarded with full 90 minutes at Madrid. Antoine Griezmann gave Diego Simeone’s men the lead with few minutes to break. The visitors’ hard work finally paid off when Cristian Portu’s cool finish in the 73rd minute helped them settle for a point.
Olunga’s side is currently ninth in the table with 27 points and look on course to finishing in the top ten this season. If everything goes well.
10-man Valencia drop points
Las Palmas walked away with maximum points this weekend with a shocking 2-1 victory over Valencia on Saturday. Santi Mina gave Valencia an early lead in the fifth minute with the club keen on returning to second place.
However, the lead only lasted 15 minutes before Jonathan Viera equalized for the hosts. Jonathan Calleri later made it two for Las Palmas from the spot earlier in the second half as the hosts continued to fight for their future in the league. Valencia threw all they had into the game for comeback but all came in vain. They later suffered a set-back when Ruben Vezo was sent off with three minutes left.
Finally, it was Las Plamas that carried the day as Valencia maintained their third spot in the table.