No superstars, no problem for Real Madrid in La Liga as Barcelona look to Leo Messi for another miraculous performance in the Camp Nou
Real Madrid shine without Bale and Cristiano
Real Madrid crushed its doubts and fears – and Eibar(1-4) in the process – in an impressive show in such a tricky spot as Ipurua in the Basque country. The Armero crowd witnessed the best game by Zidane’s men in weeks, precisely on an afternoon when many question marks were placed upon a starting XI that lacked both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
The ‘BBC’ was nowhere to be seen except for an exceptional Karim Benzema, quite the team player when he is well surrounded by skilled midfielders who can take advantage of his sophisticated tactical movements without the ball at his feet. Half-an-hour was more than enough for the away side to destroy Eibar with three goals (the Frenchman scored two and James Rodriguez made the 0-3) that wrapped up the game quickly and efficiently.
Marcos Asensio shone in the second half and scored the fourth, with a testimonial home goal by Rubén Peña that meant a small reward for a combative Eibar that is consistently over-performing this season. Not against such a powerful Madrid, though. Could Real actually be better off without two of its three main stars in the attack?
The Leo Messi show gives hope to a mentally-prepared Barcelona
A few days from now, FC Barcelona will arguably face their biggest challenge to date: bouncing back from a 4-0 loss against PSG in what would be one of the most impressive upsets in the history of the Champions League.
An impossible feat? Absolutely not. Not when the little guy is in your team. Lionel Messi once again provided the magic touch in a riotous performance, participating actively in the five goals of his team against Celta de Vigo (5-0). The Argentine wiggled his way through the midfield in the first one and finished with a clinical touch, assisted beautifully so Neymar could lob it into the net in the second…he was everywhere.
Celta de Vigo, a former mighty foe when going toe-to-toe with the Blaugrana, was unable to plug so many holes. They never stood a chance. And so, Barça fans regained some kind of hope after obtaining, for the second home game on a row, a result that would allow Luis Enrique’s men to move on to the next round in the Champions League.
Valencia slapped around by a comfortable Atlético de Madrid
In a match that could be handed the Easiest Game of the Season award, Atlético overran a poor Valencia in a placid evening at the Vicente Calderón (3-0). A couple of high pressure football bursts in the early stages of both halves were more than enough to make Los Che yell for help, constantly spanked around due to their evident lack of effort and commitment. With a bit more accuracy for the local side, the result could have been scandalous.
Actually, it’s amazing how bipolar the Valencianistas can be in such a short period of time: a resilient beast two weeks ago against Real Madrid, a cute puppy of a team when facing Cholo Simeone’s guys. This lack of consistency explains Valencia’s disappointing season and current status, buried in a desert of ineffectiveness and insipidness.
Machís friendly-fired and handed Leganés the win on a life-or-death game
The drama will ramp up on upcoming weeks as the teams in the lower half of the standings struggle to seize those key wins that allow them to avoid relegation. Winger Darwin Machís was the local hero in the epic showdown between Leganés and Granada (1-0), in a quite cruel twist of fate for the away team as Machís is playing on loan at the ‘Pepinero’ side and is actually owned by Granada.
His goal late in the game definitely sinks ‘his’ Granada in the relegation spots, though at least he did apologise mere seconds after scoring… Football can be quite ironic sometimes, right?
Real Sociedad and Villarreal will put up a fight for the fourth
With twelve games to go, most of the standings have already segmented nicely between title contenders, European competition prospects and teams racing to avoid relegation. The fight for the fourth spot, with the additional access to Champions League next season, is shaping up to be quite nice in the final stretch of the season. Atlético will have to defend their privilege tooth-and-nail.
Villarreal pulled off a solid performance in a tough game against Espanyol (2-0), taking advantage of Roberto Soldado’s recovery and bouncing back from last week’s horrible news over goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo’s knee injury.
However, their win wasn’t enough to climb into fifth, as that right belongs to Real Sociedad: Eusebio Sacristan’s side had to pin down Real Betis up to three times in order to capture the away victory (2-3). Number-10 Xabi Prieto (who else?) scored the key goal and keeps his team very close to the fourth spot, only one point above.