Real Madrid have climbed up to second place in La Liga after thrashing Valencia 2-0 at home

La Liga: Big Boys Flex Muscles

It’s as you were at the top and bottom of La Liga.

The leading side may not be as strong as they were – in fact, the forthcoming European ties will be a good indicator as to where they fare – but that has probably led to the most open domestic campaign for many a season.

The top four sides look well equipped to stay there, but can anyone catch Atletico Madrid?

 

Winners

Osasuna

When Osasuna reflect on the 2020/21 campaign, their Valentine’s Day victory at Levante may prove to be decisive.

It was a success which, coupled with other results, lifted them four places in the table and gave them some breathing space in a congested relegation fight.

Goalkeeper Sergio Herrera was the hero with a series of fine stops, including a Jose Luis Morales penalty, while Ante Budimir netted the only goal of the game 16 minutes from time.

 

Atletico Madrid

After conceding a last-gasp equaliser at home to Celta Vigo at the start of the week, more dropped points for runaway leaders Atletico Madrid may have set some nerves jangling for Los Rojiblancos.

So when Yangel Herrera fired Granada level just moments after Marcos Llorente had put Atletico ahead, there may well have been some uncertainty for the Covid-hit side.

Diego Simeone’s team banished that, however, quickly regaining the lead with Angel Correa netting what proved to be the winner.

Yes, it was fortuitous, a heavily deflected strike which looped over the goalkeeper, but it was one which restored their eight point lead at the summit.

This SBOTOP observer thinks they are certain to win their first title since 2014 and the La Liga betting odds back up that viewpoint.

 

Atletico Madrid are 5-points clear at the top of La Liga table with two games on hand

Angel Correa celebrates with his teammates after scoring Atletico Madrid’s second goal against Granada

Barcelona

After a decade of dominance, there have not been too many times in the past 12 months when Barcelona have been dubbed winners.

And while Saturday’s night 5-1 thrashing of lowly Alaves is hardly likely to spark either a title challenge or a realistic bid to win this season’s Champions League, it did show signs of a more promising future than perhaps many realise.

Talisman Lionel Messi was the inspiration, as always, with two goals but this was also a display which showed hope for the longer-term.

Francisco Trincao also scored twice as Bara secured a seventh consecutive La Liga win. Indeed, his opening goal was from a pass by Ilaix Moriba – both players were making their first La Liga starts.

Other important contributions followed from youngsters who may become regular first-teamers in the not-too-distant future.

 

Real Madrid

Real Madrid had revenge on their minds after they were thumped 4-1 at Valencia earlier in the season.

They exacted it clinically and without ever looking like a home win was anything but a formality.

Two La Liga highlights in the opening half won the game.

Only 12 minutes had passed when German midfield maestro Toni Kroos fed Karim Benzema and the Frenchman cut inside before placing an emphatic finish into the far corner from the edge of the box.

It was his sixth goal in five appearances against Valencia.

Then, after going close on a number of other occasions, Zinedine Zidane’s side grabbed the second their play merited.

Luka Modric and Lucas Vázquez were involved in the move and that man Kroos timed his run to neatly tuck home the second.

The only downside for the hosts was an injury to Dani Carvajal who made his return to the starting line-up after a month out but only lasted 25 minutes before having to go off with a new concern.

 

Losers

Eibar and Real Valladolid

If either, or indeed both, of these teams, stay up at the end of the season, then they may well look back on this result as an important point.

Yet I sensed this was a missed opportunity for both Eibar and Real Valladolid.

The visitors had a dream start with a seventh-minute penalty from Roque Mesa, an advantage that lasted just over quarter an hour before Kike Garcia headed an equaliser.

After that Eibar were the better side but were unable to grab the goal which would have lifted them three points above their opponents.

In truth, this point does not do too much for either strugglers in their bid to beat the drop.

 

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