Sunday, in Round 34 of La Liga 2019-20, fifth place and rising Villarreal, vying for a UEFA Champions League slot, lost 1-4 at home to a previously lackluster Barcelona. Coming into a match both wanted to win the hosts gifted the visitors at least two easy goals and an own goal to secure the loss.
Time and again Barca would attack down Jordi Alba’s left-wing and each time, whoever was defending for Villarreal on that side was unable to contest let alone deter the visitor’s attack. Wave after wave got through to put the host’s goal in danger. Twenty minutes in, the only mystery of the match was by how many goals Barca would win.
With the score at 1-3, including the opening third-minute own goal, the host’s response, and two infantile gimmies from inside the box favorable to the visitors, Villarreal coach Javier Calleja, used three of his subs before half-time to take out his best players while Barca accepted the gift and did major substitutions between the 60th and 70th minutes. One can only assume Calleja had other priorities lined-up.
The rest of the Round
With two matches still to play on Monday—Levante hosting Real Sociedad and Eibar visiting Sevilla—the top three slots on the table will remain unchanged with Real Madrid leading at 77 points, followed by Barcelona at 73 and Atletico Madrid at 62. Sevilla can extend their three-point lead over Villarreal in their competition for a Champions League spot with a win today.
Similarly, the scorers’ table will maintain Barcelona’s Lionel Messi at the top with 22 goals, followed by Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema at 17, Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno (substituted at half-time on Sunday) with 16, and Barca’s Luis Suarez with 14.
Earlier yesterday, Real Madrid just pulled out another 1-0 Sergio Ramos penalty victory, this time away over Athletic Bilbao, while Leganes did the same over hosts Espanyol and Osasuna and Getafe tied at 0-0. On Saturday, Celta Vigo and Real Betis tied 1-1, Real Valladolid won 1-0 at home over Alaves, and Granada were held to a 2-2 draw by Valencia. On Friday, Atletico Madrid beat visiting Mallorca 3-0.
With four matches to play, a four-point lead, the tiebreaker advantage, and only Barca within striking distance, the championship is Real Madrid’s to lose. Ironically, despite still not having learned how to manage well, coach Zinedine Zidane could be on his way to another title, albeit one with an asterisk or two next to it.