Madrid (Spain): FC Barcelona continue to close in on the La Liga title, while at the bottom of the table, things got closer than ever.
Here are four things we learned after the 32nd round of matches in Spain this weekend:
1. FULL-STRENGTH BARCA ARE A DIFFERENT BEAST
Although Betis seem to be slipping away at the wrong time of the season, as demonstrated by their 4-0 defeat in Camp Nou, the fact is the return to fitness of Andreas Christensen, Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, and Ousmane Dembele has given FC Barcelona another dimension, reports Xinhua.
Christensen scored Barca’s opening goal on his return from injury and provided more options to the Barca back four, while Pedri offered something extra all over the pitch, De Jong gave stability and the chance to step forward, and a fit Dembele offered pace and trickery in the attack.
With 15-year-old Lamile Yamal making history as Barca’s youngest debutant, it was a good weekend for coach Xavi Hernandez.
2. REAL MADRID BOUNCE BACK AGAINST ALMERIA
Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick in the first half, leading his side on the way to a comfortable 4-2 win at home to Almeria on Saturday as Real Madrid bounced back from their poor display in Girona the previous week.
Madrid were always likely to react after that performance, and Rodrygo was one of their standout players with a live-wire display against a rival that is still very much in the battle to avoid relegation.
With Manchester City due to visit the Bernabeu in just over a week and the Copa del Rey final next Saturday, the result came at the right time, but coach Carlo Ancelotti will not be happy with some of the defending that allowed their rivals to score twice.
3. RELEGATION BATTLE HEATS UP
The weekend results made the battle to avoid relegation closer than ever, with six clubs scrambling to avoid two places and separated by just four points.
Espanyol’s win over Getafe saw them leapfrog their rival in the table, although the two are still in the relegation zone (and Espanyol especially have a tough run into the end of the season).
Cadiz’s 2-1 victory over Valencia gave them a four-point cushion over Espanyol, while Valencia are just two points above the drop zone.
Almeria’s 4-2 defeat away to Real Madrid left them level on points with Valencia and Valladolid’s 5-2 thrashing at home to Atletico Madrid means they have work to do in a run-in that includes games against Cadiz, Almeria, and Getafe.
It could go down to the last game.
4. ELCHE PROVE FOOTBALL CAN BE UNPREDICTABLE
The midweek round of matches saw Rayo Vallecano produce one of their performances of the season to score a famous 2-1 win over league leaders, FC Barcelona, and Andoni Iraola’s side must have been confident ahead of Saturday’s visit to play bottom of the table Elche, who had just 13 points and lost their last five games.
Ninety minutes later, Elche were celebrating a 4-0 win — just their third of the season — and Rayo’s hopes of qualifying for Europe had suffered a serious blow.
Florien Lejeune’s wild first-half challenge that left Rayo with 10 men certainly didn’t help the cause, but the result shows how football can at times take you to the heights and leave you in the depths.
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