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By Sean Teixeira – Summer Staff Writer
The La Liga season is heading towards the home stretch, with this weekend rounding up matchday 34 of 38. Every result is critical for each team now as they look to cement their positions within the table. This week of fixtures marked each team’s 7th game since the restart and signs of rust and lack of fitness have seemingly been shaken. Let’s take a look at what this week’s highlight results and what impact they had on the league standings:
Villarreal 1-4 FC Barcelona (Highlights)
An intense midweek draw with 3rd place Atletico Madrid left Barcelona desperately needing 3 points to keep pressure on league leaders Real Madrid. Barca came out firing, taking the lead after only 3 minutes when Jordi Alba fired a cross into the box that was turned in for an own goal by a Villareal defender. Their lead lasted only 10 minutes, as Gerard Moreno continued his hot goal scoring form when he fired home a rebound. Barcelona would retake the lead for good in the 20th minute when Luis Suarez was sent a stunning curling shot into the top right corner from just outside the box. They would double their lead just before halftime after Messi set up Griezmann with a lovely back heel pass and he hit a lovely chip shot over the ‘keeper. Ansu Fati added an insurance goal late for the commanding win.
Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Real Madrid (Highlights)
Real Madrid secured their third successive 1-0 win, maintaining their 4 points lead on the top of the table. An even matchup throughout, neither side created too many clear cut chances. The decisive moment came in the 73rd minute when a VAR review controversially determined Marcelo was fouled in the box. Sergio Ramos would convert the penalty that would prove to be the match winner. A late coming together in the Bilbao box left players wanting a penalty for their team as well but it was not given.
Atletico Madrid 3-0 RCD Mallorca (Highlights)
Looking to solidify themselves in 3rd position, Atleti put together a convincing win over relegation threatened Mallorca. Morata scored a first half brace to put his team in the driving seat. He was fouled for a penalty that he then converted in the 29th minute, and then got on the end of a Llorente cross in first half stoppage time. Koke would put the game to bed in the 79th minute with a deflected volley that evaded the Mallorca goalkeeper to secure the 3 points for the hosts, and leaves Mallorca staring at relegation.
Granada CF 2-2 Valencia (Highlights)
Both teams came into the game level on 46 points, lurking just below European places and needing 3 points to set up a push. The first half was a feeling out process for both teams, and the second half provided the fireworks. Granada opened the scoring in the 61st minute with a penalty, and Valencia would equalize 2 minutes later. Valencia would score again 5 minutes later in the 68th minute when Goncalo Guedes blasted home a strike from 25 yards following a corner. Granada found a late equalizer when a Fede Vico free kick squeezed through the wall in the 86th minute. The game leaves both sides 6 points off the last Europa league place.
RCD Espanyol 0-1 Leganes (Highlights)
With relegation looking more and more likely for these 2 squads, a win was a must. It was Leganes would come away with still a glimmer of hope following a 1-0 victory. Espanyol thought they took the lead at the start of the second half but their could was called back for offside. Only minutes later Leganes would score after a breakaway goal from Jonathan Silva in the 53rd minute. Leganes would see the game out, with a late red card for Calleri of Espanyol easing the thoughts of a comeback.
Look at the Standings:
- Real Madrid (77pts) have opened up a 4 point lead atop the table with Barcelona (73pts) fighting to keep pace
- Atletico Madrid (62pts) and Sevilla (60pts) have just about secured themselves in next years Champions League, sitting in 3rd and 4th position, respectively
- Villarreal (54pts) overtook Getafe (53pts) for 5th place. Getafe hold onto the final Europa League position in 6th
- Sitting just below the European places are Real Sociedad (51pts) and Athletic Bilbao (49pts), with Valencia and Granada (47pts each) sitting probably too far to overtake
- A trio of teams (Celta de Vigo, Alaves, SD EIbar) find themselves on 35 points, just above the relegation zone
- RCD Mallorca (29pts) and Leganes (28pts) picked up victories this week to keep their hopes of survival alive, Espanyol (24pts) look certain to face the drop
What to watch
Getafe vs Villarreal (July 8th 2:30pm EST)
Matchup between the two current Europa League-placed teams, teams above and below these two will be very interested in the result of this one. 3 points for either will surely set them up for Europe next season.
Real Valladolid vs FC Barcelona (July 11th 1:30pm EST)
Barcelona will hope they have found their form after their big win against Villarreal. Anything less than victory will not do, as Messi and co. chase the La Liga title.
Villarreal vs Real Sociedad (July 13th 1:30pm EST)
A second massive matchup of the week for Villarreal against another Europa League challenger. Sociedad are the first team out currently, but will look to change that with a win in this match.
Granda CF vs Real Madrid (July 13th 4:00pm EST)
Real Madrid will put their perfect record since the restart on the line but more importantly for them, they will look to maintain their 4 point lead over rivals Barcelona. If Barcelona drop more points this week and Madrid do not, they could find themselves securing the title in this match.
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