La Liga Talking Points: Real Madrid Back To Best
The famous El Clásico lived up to its name as Real Madrid returned back to its best as they claimed the bragging rights in a thrilling 2-1 victory against fierce rivals Barcelona at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium.
Madrid were missing key players in Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Eden Hazard, while Barcelona had a host of players to choose.
Karim Benzema’s goals have been key in helping Los Blancos cut the gap to rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of the table. In the 13th minute, the Frenchman produced another exquisite finish to give Zidane’s side an early lead, before Madrid doubled it’s advantage with a deflected free kick from Toni Kroos.
Barcelona hit the woodwork twice and had two penalty appeals turned down, but Real were still worthy winners. The Los Blancos are only one point behind leaders Atletico Madrid and one ahead of third-placed Barcelona with eight games left.
Zinedine Zidane’s side produced these types of ruthless performances frequently during last season’s surge to the La Liga title.
KOEMAN DISAPPOINTS IN ANOTHER BIG GAME
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman was keen to highlight the referee’s role in his side’s defeat by Real Madrid, but his complaints could not mask his dismal record in the biggest games this season.
Koeman has failed to win some important games this season, as they were beaten 1-0 by league leaders Atletico Madrid in December. Barcelona also lost 3-0 at home to Juventus to finish second in its UEFA Champions League group, setting up a last-16 tie with Paris St Germain which they lost 5-1 on aggregate.
To top things off, Barcelona were also beaten by Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final.
However, Koeman has won over many Barca fans in the past and before Saturday his side had won 16 of its previous 19 league games while remaining unbeaten.
Yet it is his record in the games that matter most that will determine whether he stays in the job next season.
ATLETICO MADRID CONTINUES TO FALL SHORT
Atletico Madrid hung on to its lead at the top of La Liga after a 1-1 draw at Real Betis but paid a heavy price with injuries to Kieran Trippier and Joao Felix, leaving the squad looking increasingly thin for the decisive games of the season.
Diego Simeone’s side are now without four of their key attacking players, including top scorer Luis Suarez, and their injury crisis comes at a time when they have only scored twice in their last four league games.
The Argentine coach is more than used to swimming against the tide, however, and in a typical show of defiance he insisted he was relishing his team’s struggles.
“We are in a moment of resistance and I like it. When the going gets tough you have to play with your hearts,” Simeone said after the match.
La Liga results
Villarreal 1-2 Osasuna
Valencia 2-2 Real Sociedad
Real Valladolid 1-2 Granada
Real Betis 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Getafe 0-1 Cadiz
Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Deportivo Alaves
Eibar 0-1 Levante
Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona