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By Sean Teixeira – Summer Staff Writer
La Liga matches continue to come thick and fast, with two rounds of fixtures being played this past week. The effects of the 3 months layoff were evident in the opening weeks of the restart but teams and players are now showing increased sharpness and energy creating some true excitement. Some teams are using these matches to pull away from their competitors while in other races the margins are getting smaller and smaller. Let’s take a look at the week that was in La Liga with some of the highlight matchups:
Celta de Vigo 2-2 FC Barcelona (Highlights)
Desire was not in short supply in this match between title contenders Barcelona and relegation battlers Celta. Oddly enough Celta walked away the game thinking they should have claimed the three points. Barca struck first from a well improvised free kick from Messi who played it to Suarez to head home. Celta pegged the game level early in the second half when Yokuslu was played in on goal and he laid it off for Smolov to tap in an open goal. Barca retook the lead in the 67th minute when Messi slalomed through the box and fed Suarez again who fired home to make it 2-1. Celta de Vigo would equalize again in the 88th minute when Iago Aspas curled a low free kick around the Barcelona wall into the bottom corner. In the 94th minute as Barcelona pushed for a desperately needed victory to keep pace with Real Madrid, Celta had a golden chance to steal the win, however Nolito scuffed his shot in the one place Ter-Stegen could scramble to save, leaving the game in a draw.
Real Madrid 1-0 RCD Espanyol (Highlights)
Taking advantage of another Barcelona slip-up, Real Madrid made it 5 wins in 5 since the restart. Espanyol came sitting in last place and desperately needing points, they kept this game competitive and physical for as long as they could. This match was marked by plenty of cheap fouls in the midfield, evidenced by the 35 total fouls but only a mere 2 yellow cards. Espanyol were compact and difficult to break down, with most of Madrid’s chances coming from set pieces. It took a moment of brilliance from Los Blancos frontman Benzema to break the deadlock. The center forward took down a headed pass from Sergio Ramos and with his back to the play, backheeled a pass through the defenders legs for Casemiro to stab home for what turned out to be the game-winner.
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Deportivo Alavés (Highlights)
Continuing their march towards 3rd place and Champions League position for next season, Atleti won their fourth match in a row. Alaves has had quite the opposite run of form, losing 4 of their 5 matches since the restart. Following a slow first half, Saul opened the scoring in the 59th minute with a header off of a Trippier free kick. Madrid would double their in the 73rd minute when Llorente was fouled in the box, and Diego Costa converted from the penalty spot. Alaves was able to pull a goal back in the 93rd minute with a penalty kick of their own, but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation goal.
Villarreal 2-0 Valencia (Highlights)
Photo: Khaleej Times
These two teams came in both in the thick of the race for the final two Europa League places, and 3 points were crucial. Villarreal have been climbing the table with their recent results and Valencia have inversely been slipping following a series of disappointing results. Villareal proved their quality, scoring two delightful volleyed goals in the first half to cruise to a 2-0 victory. The first came in the 14th minute when Moreno chipped a ball for Paco Alcacer to volley into the bottom right corner. The provider became the scorer in the 44th minute after a long ball from the goalkeeper found Santi Cazorla who laid it off to Moreno who powered a bullet of a volley past the Valencia goalkeeper to ensure all 3 points for Villarreal.
Getafe vs Real Sociedad (Highlights)
Another battle between two teams in Europa League, Getafe strengthened their positioning with 2-1 victory at home to Sociedad. Getafe were gifted their opening goal in the 20th minute when the Sociedad goalkeeper hit a clearance right at the Getafe attacker at the top of the box who was immediately fouled for a penalty. Jaime Mata converted the spot kick for the early lead. La Real would equalize early in the second half with a great pass from Oyarzabal and equally good finish from Januzaj. Getafe would grab a late winner from Jamie Mata in the 83rd minute after Jorge Molina played a quick throw in to catch the opposing defense out. The win moves Getafe up to 5th position and 5 points ahead of Sociedad who are the first team out of the Europa League places.
Look at the Standings:
- With Barcelona’s two recent ties, Real Madrid has opened up a 2 point lead at the top
- Atletico Madrid (58pts) has stormed up the standings to 3rd position, 4 points ahead of 4th place Sevilla (54pts)
- Getafe occupies 5th with 52 points and Villarreal now hold 6th position with 51 points
- On the outside looking in on the European places: Real Sociedad (47 pts), Valencia (46 pts) and Athletic Bilbao (45 pts)
- With SD Eibar (35 pts) and Celta de Vigo (34 pts) picking up results in recent matches, they have opened up an 8 point gap between themselves and the relegation zone
- The bottom three, Mallorca (26 pts), Leganes (25 pts) and Espanyol (24 pts), need positive results and fast to stay up in the division
Watch to Watch:
FC Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid (June 29th 4:00pm EST)
These two rivals have had some memorable matches in recent years, and this matchup between 2nd vs 3rd will surely be no different. Barca are looking to get back on track with a win to keep pressure on first placed Real Madrid. Atleti will love to play spoiler in this role.
Real Madrid vs Getafe (July 2nd 4:00pm EST)
A Madrid derby with plenty on the line in this one. Real Madrid look to continue their winning ways and stay on top in the league. Getafe are trying to hold off a plethora of teams coming for the Europa League positions.
RCD Espanyol vs Leganes (July 5th 11:00am EST)
20th vs 19th. Survival. This is what is at stake. The teams above the relegation zone are starting to pull away and neither of these teams can afford anything less than 3 points. Expect intensity and passion in abundance in this match.
Villareal vs Barcelona (July 5th 4:00pm EST)
A second difficult matchup for Barcelona in the same week, this match can be pivotal in their run towards the title. Anything less than a victory will be costly for the Blaugrana, while Villarreal find themselves in a hotly contested battle for European position.
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