Barcelona is back in the Spanish La Liga title race after gaining three points on league-leading Real Madrid. Real was handed a 4-0 beating by cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid on Feb. 7 while Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 5-2 just 24 hours later. Real still leads the league after 22 games with 54 points from 18 wins and four losses while Barcelona is just a point behind with 17 victories, two draws and three losses. Atletico Madrid is still in the running too with their win over Real and sit in third place with 50 points from 16 wins, a pair of draws and four losses.
After the weekend’s contests, bet365 has Real Madrid at 8/11 to win the Primera Liga this season with Barcelona 5/4 and Atletico Madrid 14/1.
Of course, if the league should happen to be tied at the end of the season goal difference will be used as the first tiebreaker. Barcelona currently has the edge in this department with 62 goals scored and 13 against for a difference of 49. Real Madrid is one behind them at 48 on 70 goals scored and 22 conceded. Atletico Madrid is quite a distance behind the two leaders with 47 goals scored and 20 allowed for a difference of 27.
Barcelona’s 5-2 win against Bilbao was spearheaded by Argentine international forward Lionel Messi as he scored his 33rd goal of the 2014/15 campaign and helped set up the other four at Bilbao’s San Memes stadium. Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez gave the visitors a 2-0 lead before the halftime whistle sounded, but Athletic Bilbao fought back to make it 2-1 when Mikel Rico scored after 60 minutes. Barcelona restored their two-goal lead when Oscar de Marcos scored in his own net and Brazilian international Neymar gave them a 4-1 lead when he notched his 23rd goal of the season.
Athletic Bilbao didn’t lie down as Aritz Aduriz made it 4-2. The comeback came to a crushing halt though when Xabier Etxeita was thrown out of the game for a brutal tackle on Suarez. Barcelona wrapped up the scoring with a goal by Pedro Rodriguez. It was Barcelona’s ninth consecutive victory and it now gives them an opportunity to overhaul Real Madrid’s lead as early as their next game.
Atletico Madrid, the reigning titleholders, also kept their hopes alive with the 4-0 win over their city rivals in the Madrid Derby. Tiago put the home side in front at the Vicente Calderon and Saul Niguez doubled the lead before halftime. Real Madrid had Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo back n the lineup after he missed the previous two games due to a suspension. The world’s player of the year couldn’t stop the beating though as Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic both scored in the second half to wrap up the win. Atletico is now undefeated against Real in their last six games.
Real manager Carlo Ancelotti wasn’t happy with his team’s performance and admitted that Atletico was the better side in all areas of the game. He then stated that it was the worst game his squad has played since he’s been their manager and remarked, “We failed at everything. We lost all the tackles, all the high balls. We didn’t have one player who played well.” Ronaldo agreed with his manager and commented, “Real Madrid cannot lose 4-0 against anyone. We lacked desire, attitude, everything. The team wasn’t fresh mentally or physically, but there are no excuses. The damage is done.”