It was a good week for FC Barcelona in La Liga as their win over Sevilla took them eight points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table. Elsewhere, a weekend of surprises saw the battle for Europe close up as the relegation battle also got tighter.
1. Barca starting to look like Champions-elect
Barcelona’s 3-0 win at home to Sevilla, coupled with Real Madrid’s 1-0 defeat away to Mallorca, saw Barca go eight points clear at the top of La Liga. Although there is still a long way to go in the season, Barca’s performance is that of a side that isn’t going to drop many points over the rest of the season.
Once again they were rock solid in defense and although they were denied by some fine goalkeeping by Bono in the first half, the second saw them create enough chances to win easily.
The loss of Sergio Busquets could be a problem in the coming weeks, but with Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, an ever-improving Gavi and Franck Kessie, Barca have the players to cover any short-term absence.
2. Calendar hurting Real Madrid
Real Madrid kicked off Sunday with a 1-0 defeat to Mallorca where they looked flat after their game against Valencia on Thursday night. The second-half penalty was Madrid’s only shot on target during the game.
With Thibaut Courtois joining the injury list, Real Madrid look like a side in need of a rest, but with the World Club Cup this week and a league match at home to Elche, their fixture list is full until the end of March and while Barca’s squad have two days off this week, Carlo Ancelotti simply doesn’t have such a luxury until the end of March.
3. Top teams lose, while bottom sides win
It was a strange weekend for results in La Liga, with Barcelona the only team who started the round of games in the top-seven to win, while Cadiz were the only side to start in the bottom six to lose.
That was good news for Athletic Bilbao, whose win over Cadiz lifted them back into the battle for Europe, while at the other end of the table, Getafe showed some much-needed grit to take a point from Atletico Madrid, Elche stunned Villarreal to take their first win of the season and away wins for Valladolid and Celta lifted them clear of the relegation zone, where eight sides are within just five points of each other.
4. Valencia in freefall as rivals improve
While it was a good weekend for many teams struggling to avoid relegation, it was a disastrous one for Valencia, who lost 1-0 in Girona.
Valencia are just one point and one place above the bottom three and their performances since Gennaro Gattuso was replaced by ‘Voro Gonzalez have not improved.
Voro commented after the defeat in Girona that his players have a mental block, and with growing hostility between fans and owner Peter Lim, it’s hard to see how his squad can shut out the hostility and bad blood.