In an action packed Wednesday night, the La Liga witnessed a turn of fortune as Real Madrid dropped points against Sevilla to see Atletico Madrid take the lead as the race for the Spanish Crown heats up.
Having last won the La Liga back in 1996, Atletico Madrid seem to be firmly in control as they stand right on top of the La Liga after easing past Granada at the Vicente Calderon. The match was tightly fought between the two teams but Atletico Madrid showed their competitors that they were not to be trifled with after Diego Costa scored the only goal of the match to earn his side 3 crucial points. Having played second fiddle to Real Madrid and Barcelona for more than a decade, Atletico Madrid seem to be on the bend under Diego Simeone who led them to their first trophy in years after Atletico beat Real at the Santiago Bernabeu last year to win the Copa del Rey. The ‘poor cousins’ from Madrid then went on start the current season brightly despite losing main striker Radamel Falcao to Monaco in the summer. The Red and Whites have played really good football this season and are deservingly leading the table at the moment.
Atletico Madrid has lost only 3 games in 30 fixtures and Granada weren’t favoured to win against Diego Simeone’s men in their own den. Though David Villa threatened to open the scoring, it took a Diego Costa header to make sure Atletico earned three vital points. Though Granada threatened to break free and equalise, they never made the best of the opportunities and hence paid the price at Vicente Calderon. With Real Madrid slipping against Real Madrid, the win over Granada saw Atletico sail right to the top of the La Liga with a single point separating them from second placed Barcelona.
Meanhwile Barcelona eased past Celta Vigo after putting 3 past the 12th placed team. Both Neymar and Messi were on fire but the victory came at the cost of Victor Valdes who suffered a serious knee injury and looks to be out for the next 6 months. The goal-keeper had made it clear that this was his last season with the Catalans and now looks to have played his last for Barcelona after a serious blow to his knee.
Capitalising on their 4-3 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona made sure that they did not slip up as Neymar and Messi earned the side 3 crucial points. A brilliant play orchestrated by Messi and Iniesta saw Sanchez slip the ball to Neymar who tapped the ball inside the net to give Barceona the lead in the opening minutes of the game. The Catalans dominated the game completely and looked likely to double up their lead when Victor Valdes landed awkwardly on his knee and had to be stretchered off the field. However Barcelona were not to be dismayed as Lionel Messi scored his first goal of the match to double their lead and then Neymar added another one in the second half to make sure Barcelona earned three crucial points in this important mid-week fixture. Barcelona controlled the game with ease and Neymar seemed to come back to his usual best. Following Madrid’s loss to Sevilla, Barcelona are within touching distance of the first position, trailing Atletico Madrid by just a single point. They have established a convincing two point lead over arch rivals Real Madrid and look set to retain their La Liga trophy if they do not falter in the last leg of the campaign.
Meanwhile Real Madrid gifted away their position in the league after losing to Sevilla 2-1 in an important fixture. Sevilla had proved to be tough oppositions for Real in the past seasons and returned to haunt the Los Blancos after beating them at home. Having lost the all-important El Clasico, where they had the opportunity to open a 7 point lead over Barcleona, Real now find themselves in the third place in the league and have only themselves to blame for their position. Real lost both the encounters against Barcelona this season and also lost to Atletico MAdird and hence gave away a total of 9 crucial points in this three-way battle. Though they have been consistent apart from these losses, they could not continue their exploits after Sevilla left them ruptured by their penetrating counter-attacks.
Cristiano Roanldo’s opener in the 14th minute was not enough for Real Madrid who seem to have suffered due to the drop in Modric and Alonso’s performance in the midfield. Once the bedrock of their success, the midfield duo failed to ignite the team and did not provide enough support as Bacca scored twice to ensure Sevilla won 3 important points in the home fixture. Real paid severely for Di Maria and Sergio Ramos’ absence and never looked convincing in their performance. Despite Ronaldo and Bale’s presence, this defeat finds them 3 points adrift from the top while Barcelona, who were trailing by 4 points are now leading Madrid by 2 crucial points.
With just 8 games to go, the La Liga is turning into a tightly fought battle and any of the three teams have the ability to break free and win the Spanish crown. With Champions League fixtures coming up, it remains to be seen if these three teams can continue their form and at the same time keep their title hopes alive. This battle might go down to the last fixture, one that features Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in an important battle at the Camp Nou.