La Liga’s week thirty-one began on Friday, with a shootout that saw Deportivo defeating visiting Malaga 3-2. On Saturday, hosts Alaves won 2-0 over Getafe, Celta Vigo, at home, destroyed Sevilla 4-0, and also at home Real Betis defeated Eibar 2-0. Barcelona, with a bit of officiating largesse, and a superb Lionel Messi hat trick performance (including a spectacular 30-yard free kick) defeated visiting Leganes 3-1.
On Sunday, Levante won 2-1 at home over Las Palmas and Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid, in a match Real coach Zinedine Zidane decided was only “so” important as he substituted scorer Cristiano Ronaldo in the second half. The impression, despite dropping from third to fourth place in the La Liga table, was that the upcoming second leg of the Champions League, at home against Juventus, was uppermost in the team’s mind and that they were satisfied with a fourth place finish in La Liga.
It is interesting to note that as Zidane’s stock seems to drop, and his rumored short future at the club reaches a crescendo, Karim Benzema is no longer a sure-thing starter.
Continuing with the scores, Real Sociedad beat visiting Girona 5-0, with the latter, the recently promoted side, still among the top 10 teams of La Liga. Valencia won 1-0 at home over Espanyol.
The weekend ended with Barcelona still atop the table with 79 points, followed by Atletico Madrid at 68, Valencia at 65 and Real Madrid at 64. Villarreal hosts Athletic Bilbao on Monday with the Yellow Submariners having a chance at 50 points with a win, leapfrogging Real Betis and elevating them to fifth place, fourteen points away from the closest Champions League spot, currently held by Real Madrid.
At round’s end Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was the top scorer with 29 goals followed by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo with 23, Barca’s Luis Suarez with 22, Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas with 19 and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann with 18 goals.