Barcelona got back to winning ways this week to keep their title hopes alive, as did Atlético Madrid away to Villarreal.
On Wednesday evening, the Catalans bagged a comfortable 3-0 win at Elche which was the perfect response to their disappointing draw with Cadiz just a few days earlier.
The now all-time record-appearance breaker, Lionel Messi, was first off the mark after a stylish one-two with Martin Braithwaite, in which the Danish talisman back-heeled the return pass to his Argentine teammate, resulting in a soft shot on target that bounced its way in calmly. It was the perfect start to the second half after the first 45 minutes had ended goalless.
Later into the game, Frenkie de Jong’s well-placed low delivery from the left fell to Messi who, once again, made scoring look easy, this time by taking three touches before dinking the ball upwards into the net because, why not?
To wrap things up, a Messi cross was kept in play by the head of Braithwaite and landed at the feet of local Catalan boy Jordi Alba who finished nicely but scrappily, falling to the ground whilst delivering the goods with his left foot.
Just three days later, a real test was on the cards as the Catalans travelled to Sevilla who, prior to the match, trailed them by only two points. But Barcelona were able to show the Sevillanos that there are only three teams in this season’s title race, despite the idea amongst some that Sevilla might be a dark horse that could creep up and do a Leicester.
Ousmane Dembélé put the visitors ahead by slotting the ball low into the far corner from the left hand side, before Messi killed off the game later on by fumbling the ball past opposition defenders and eventually the goalkeeper, before tapping it into an open net.
This victory put Barcelona just two points behind leaders Atlético and one point above Real Madrid – although Atlético were yet to play their other fixture of the week. For that reason, attention was turned to the league leaders on Sunday as they took on Villarreal.
A show of either desire, clumsiness or both saw players from either side falling over in the Villarreal box before the ball bounced slightly over the line, and was confirmed by VAR as an own goal from Alfonso Pedraza, giving Atlético the lead.
But the second goal of the game was nothing of the sort, with João Felix intercepting an attempted clearance with his chest before firing into the bottom left corner in style to ensure Atlético’s recent blip in form did not continue.
The win took Simeone’s boys back up to five points clear of Barça. Real Madrid are yet to host Real Sociedad before the biggest Madrid derby in years takes place on Sunday. Atlético vesus Real is always a special event but this one could potentially decide the title.
It goes without saying that Atlético will be relieved to have rediscovered their mojo, especially after suffering a 1-0 loss mid-week in the Champions League at home to Chelsea, who dominated them throughout and were unlucky not to have put the tie to bed.
Sunday 28 February
Celta Vigo 1 Real Valladolid 1
Cádiz 0 Real Betis 1
Granada 2 Elche 1
Villarreal 0 Atlético Madrid 2
Saturday 27 February
Eibar 1 Huesca 1
Sevilla 0 Barcelona 2
Alavés 0 Osasuna 1
Getafe 3 Valencia 0
Friday 26 February
Levante 1 Athletic Bilbao 1
Wednesday 24 February
Barcelona 3 Elche 0
Monday 22 February
Osasuna 0 Sevilla 2
UEFA Champions League
Wednesday 24 February
Atalanta 0. Real Madrid 1
Tuesday 23 February
Atlético Madrid 0 Chelsea 1
Thursday 25 February
Napoli 2 Granada 1 (Agg. 2 – 3)
Villareal 2 Red Bull Salzburg 1 (Agg. 4 – 1)
Manchester United 0 Real Sociedad 0 (Agg. 4 – 0)