La Liga wrap: Lionel Messi warms up for Man City with double

Tom Wellman reflects on all the action from La Liga this weekend ahead of the Champions League

By Tom Wellman

Messi overcomes penalty demon with double against Eibar

Lionel Messi warmed up for Manchester City by burying a penalty and scoring a header in the 2-0 win at Eibar. Not content with just the goals, Messi also dribbled past four Eibar defenders on a sensational run that took him almost the length of the pitch! The comfortable win proved the perfect warm-up ahead of a massive week that encompasses a Champions League knockout tie and El Clasico, with Barca looking to possibly increase their lead over Real Madrid and wipe out their head-to-head advantage. Players such as Andres Iniesta and Javier Mascherano were rested, although Xavi did come on to make his 750th appearance for Barcelona, showing it is not just Messi who reaches extraordinary landmarks!

Bale ends goal drought as Madrid win marred by stroppy Ronaldo

Gareth Bale scored twice in Real Madrid’s 2-0 win over Levante that keeps them just a point behind Barcelona ahead of the Clasico. Bale’s double – his first goals in nine games – was celebrated by closing his ears in response to some of the criticism the Welshman has received from the media and Bernabeu supporters. The two goals sealed the win, though all was not well for Real as Ronaldo was left without a goal to take him back ahead of Messi in the Pichichi. Ronaldo mustered eight shots at goal and even saw his goalbound strike deflected in deftly by Bale for Madrid’s second. The second-half was all about teeing up the number 7 to try and score but Levante held firm. Only an improvised attempt from Karim Benzema’s heel alerted a subdued Bernabeu, as the Frenchman was unlucky see his effort hit the bar. One other positive was the return of Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos to the starting line-up, both of whom have been missing with injury for several weeks.

Alcacer returns to scoresheet as Valencia jump into third spot

Spain striker Paco Alcacer ended a run of eight games without a goal when he found the net in Valencia’s 2-0 win over Deportivo on Friday night. Daniel Parejo had earlier put Los Che ahead with a penalty as they rose above Atletico Madrid into third place – a position they would keep after the holders’ draw. It reflects the incredible form the club has shown since December, losing just once in 14 games, winning 10 of those. Whilst the club remain eight points adrift of Barcelona at the top, and must visit the top two during the run-in, it is unlikely that Valencia will challenge for the title this season, despite the thoughts of their manager Nuno Santo. The confident Portuguese coach believes if he can keep hold of their current squad for the next few years then they will have a chance to win La Liga again!

Third consecutive draw surely ends Atleti’s title defence

Atletico slipped to their third straight draw as they were held at Espanyol. Centre-back Miranda was dismissed on the stroke of half-time for a sickening elbow on midfielder Abraham, thwarting Madrid in their pursuit to reclaim third spot. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Atleti created the better chances, only to be denied by a resurgent Kiko Casilla. The Espanyol stopper had previously pulled off a blinder to stop Fernando Torres’ header before Casilla showed sharp reflexes again to deny Arda Turan and Raul Garcia. Nine points is the difference between Atletico and top spot, a gap that appears to be beyond a side who have looked a shadow of last season’s champions all season.

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