1. Barcelona need Neymar and Umtiti
Neymar was the star of the comeback show last midweek as Barcelona pulled off an incredible Champions League turnaround against Paris Saint-Germain, but the Brazilian was not available for their trip to play Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday and Barca sorely missed him. He was suffering from an injury and could not make the trip to Galicia, so had to watch on as his teammates fell to a 2-1 defeat and allowed Real Madrid to move back to the top of the table. Both of the goals came as a result of set pieces, which also proved how reliant the Blaugrana had become on centre-back Samuel Umtiti. They have won every La Liga match he has started this season, but he was left on the bench.
2. Real Madrid need Ramos
Real Madrid have also been relying on one player in particular in recent weeks, just as a good bingo player relies on a bit of luck, and fortunately for them he was on the pitch on Sunday. Not for the first time this season and probably not for the last, Sergio Ramos earned his side a victory, this time heading in the decisive goal in Los Blancos’ 2-1 win over Real Betis at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Without the centre-back’s goals, Real Madrid would be nine points worse off in the La Liga table and would be sitting in third, just one point ahead of Atletico Madrid. If they do go on to win the title, then Sergio Ramos deserves special credit for the achievement.
3. Atletico Madrid need Griezmann and Gabi
There was clear theme this weekend and Atletico Madrid were no exception. They managed to see off Granada 1-0 away from home on Saturday night, but it was far more complicated than their 7-1 victory when they hosted the Andalusians earlier in the season. Part of the reason it was more complicated was the fact that Los Rojiblancos had to make do without their captain Gabi, who had fractured a couple of fingers and required surgery. Without him, the midfield was overrun and Thomas Partey simply couldn’t replace him. Yet Atletico did have Antoine Griezmann on the pitch and the Frenchman was decisive yet again, scoring his fourth goal in three matches to earn the three points.
4. Local pride could bring Athletic continental football
Sunday’s Basque derby between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club was not only a battle for local pride, but it was also a very important fixture in both teams’ European aspirations. Real Sociedad still had hopes of securing the final Champions League spot, while Athletic were trying to hold off another Basque side Eibar for seventh place. Assuming the fourth Basque La Liga team Deportivo Alaves lose the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, a seventh-place finish will bring with it Europa League football and Athletic Club are now in pole position to claim it. Their 2-0 win away at La Real could book their 2017-18 ticket to Europe.
5. Sevilla’s grip on third is loosening
Atletico Madrid have cut the gap to third-place Sevilla after they defeated Granada and after Leganes managed to hold the Andalusian giants to a 1-1 draw on Saturday afternoon. Sevilla have now drawn two matches in a row against two newly-promoted sides and a defeat away at Atletico Madrid next weekend would see their gap over Diego Simeone’s men cut to just two points. It seems that fatigue is finally taking its toll on this Sevilla squad and their fixture list could become even busier if they book a place in the Champions League quarter-finals against Leicester City this midweek. With trips to Real Madrid and Barcelona also on the Sevilla fixture list, this excellent season could suddenly lose some of its shine.
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