La Liga wrap: Barcelona halt Atletico’s title push at Camp Nou
La Liga wrap: Barcelona moved nine points clear at the top of La Liga after beating Atletico on Sunday. Tom Wellman reports
Barça halt Atletico’s title push
It was well-documented Atletico Madrid faced a season-defining fortnight as they travelled to Real Madrid and Barcelona in quick succession and it proved to be exactly that. Still incapable of defeating Spain’s elite, Atletico tumbled to two defeats which have shattered their burgeoning title aspirations. Barça’s 4-1 win on Sunday now means that they hold a lead of nine points over Atletico and a 13-point lead over Real Madrid in third. But Atletico, to their credit, were bold and scored first. In form Radamel Falcao put the visitors 1-0 up before Barça responded. Adriano unleashed a stunning strike to pull the home side level before Sergio Busquets gave Tito Vilanova’s men the lead before Lionel Messi added a customary brace, taking his 2012 tally to 90. But for a major Barça slip-up, the title is all but sealed. For Atletico, there is still the prize of finishing above rivals Real Madrid who continue to stutter.
Mourinho admits title is Barça’s after late equaliser
Jose Mourinho conceded defeat in the title race on Sunday evening as Real Madrid slipped up at home to Espanyol, falling 13 points behind Barcelona. Not even the self-confident Madrid boss will be able to make up the gap between Spain’s top two, but perhaps more shockingly, Mourinho seems to have lost his team too. Defeat in midweek to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey and a home draw with struggling Espanyol has raised serious doubts over the commitment of Madrid’s star players who seem to be lacking that desire to win every match – a trait so prevalent last season. Arrogant defending has contributed to their downfall as key players have made simple mistakes consistently as Madrid conceded their sixth goal in a week. Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to hit a real run of form as Madrid face the prospect of meakly surrendering their league crown.
Levante pushing for Champions League spot
Levante are enjoying Europa League football at the moment – currently in the knockout stages having progressed from the group – but in La Liga, they seem to want more. They have sustained their form this season despite the distraction of Europe and they currently sit just a single point away from the Champions League spots. A 1-0 win at Zaragoza pushed them onto 27 points, just two behind their total at the same time last season. Sevilla and Valencia kept them company last year but those two have fallen away and been hopelessly inconsistent, giving Levante the chance to cement their place in the top six with few worries of being surpassed. Malaga could prove to be too strong to overtake this season, but another stint of Europa League football at this point certainly looks likely.
Goal-shy Granada continue to misfire
Udinese loaned Granada seven players during the summer – with the rest presumably going to Watford – but not one of them has been able to correct Granada’s goal scoring problems. The 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad at the weekend marked the fifth consecutive game where Granada have failed to score – a run stretching back to the beginning of November. They have managed just 11 goals in 16 games despite signing striker Youssef El-Arabi for €5m (£4m) in the summer. He is their top scorer at the moment with four goals, but to keep the club in the top flight, he’ll have to prove his worth. We all know what the Granada fans will be asking for for Christmas.