After this weekend’s games in Spain, Real Madrid are out in their own in first place, three points clear of Barcelona.
Let’s have a deeper look at some of the talking points after Jornada 21 in La Liga.
Valencia outsmart Barca
Valencia were well-deserving 2-0 winners at the Mestalla against Barcelona on Saturday. Los Che are in seventh position after the weekend.
Two Maxi Gomez goals ensured victory for Albert Celades’s side who had not been defeated in La Liga since November 23 until last weekend’s 4-1 away defeat at Mallorca.
They got back to winning ways against a Barcelona side which once again dominated possession, 74% of the ball, but lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
Lionel Messi was dangerous throughout and had a couple of half-chances, flashing a header wide in the second-half and a free-kick which was well saved by Jaume Doménech, but they didn’t create any clear goalscoring opportunities.
The loss of Luis Suarez through a long-term knee injury is starting to be felt and it will be interesting to see if Quique Setién looks to sign a forward in the remaining days of the transfer window to bolster the attack.
Real Madrid grind it out
Real Madrid moved three points clear at the top of the table following a 1-0 away win at Real Valladolid on Sunday night.
Nacho scored the only goal of the game in the 78th minute, heading home from an inviting cross from the impressive Toni Kroos.
While making hard work of the victory and without creating many clear scoring chances, Los Blancos are defending well and have only conceded 13 goals in La Liga up to this point.
Karim Benzema was back from injury, starting at the weekend and has 12 league goals to his name so far this season.
Zinedine Zidane will hope the French striker can find the net as regularly as he did prior to the Winter Break, as the Chamartin-based side bid to claim the league title for the first time since the 16/17 season.
The three sides occupying the relegation placings, Celta Vigo, Leganes and Espanyol all picked up a point each at the weekend.
Celta Vigo will be the most disappointed of the three not to have won all three points, dominating possession at home in Balaídos against Eibar, but also creating many chances to score. That’s three consecutive draws in a row for the Galicia-based side.
Leganes played out a scoreless draw at Atletico Madrid, a great result and an impressive response to their 3-0 home defeat to neighbours Getafe last time out. While Leganes rode their luck at times, they defended well and deserved a point.
Espanyol drew 1-1 at home to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, recent signing Raúl de Tomás equalising for the Barcelona-based side in the second-half.
A win and two draws for Espanyol in their last three league fixtures is a really positive start to the New Year for Los Periquitos.
Sevilla consolidating Champions League spot
Julien Lopetegui’s Sevilla side were 2-0 winners at home to Granada in Saturday night’s game.
First-half goals from Nolito and Luuk de Jong ensured they finished the weekend in third place on 38 points, five points adrift of Barcelona in second place.
Lopetegui’s side will have felt disappointed they didn’t get at least a point in a 2-1 defeat at Real Madrid last weekend, a VAR decision ruling out a de Jong header in the first-half.
Saturday night’s win was a positive response and Sevilla can look to the remainder of the season with confidence, with de Jong and Argentinian Lucas Ocampos looking dangerous in attack.
Real Sociedad in the goals
Real Sociedad got back to winning ways in Sunday’s 3-0 home victory against Mallorca.
La Real were after two defeats on the bounce and will be happy to have arrested their poor league form since the Christmas break.
Goals form Alexander Isak, Ander Barrenetxea and Portu sealed the three points for Imanol Algucil’s San Sebastian-based side.
They currently lie in sixth position on 34 points, trailing Atletico Madrid by two points in fifth position.
While La Real have scored 36 league goals, they have conceded 28, exactly double what Atleti have let in. If they can tighten up defensively it is not unthinkable that the Basque side could be in contention for a top four finish and a place in the Champions League.