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La Liga Week 33 Review: Barcelona Maintain Eight Point Lead, Espanyol and Villarreal Continue to Slide

I did it, I finally did it!
I did it, I finally did it!

Valencia CF 3 - 6 Real Madrid
In what was supposed to be a tight affair at the Mestalla, Real Madrid trashed the poor Valencia side. It was an awful first half for the hosts who gave up four, two of them on inexcusable mistakes, to Real Madrid's "second team". Karim Benzema was the beneficiary of Vicente Guaita's mistake (23') and eight minutes later Gonzalo Higuaín made Jérémy Mathieu look like a fool, after the Frenchman made a mess out of a simple clearance. Kaká was on the receiving end of Higuaín low cross in the 39th minute and the Brazilian made no mistake from close range.

Three minutes later Real struck again. The goal was virtually the same as the one before, but this time Kaká and Higuaín swapped roles. The Argentine striker completed the hat-trick eight minutes into the second half when he was again left with a simple, close range finish. Los Blancos pulled back when they completed the Manita and allowed Valencia to get forward. The hosts quickly got one back as Roberto Soldado redirected the hard pass behind Iker Casillas (60').

After just two minutes Kaká completed his double with a trademark run down middle and a lovely finish. The hosts went on to add two goals to lessen the defeat. Jonas fired home from the edge of the box (81') and four minutes later Jordi Alba scored from close range.

FC Barcelona 2 - 0 Osasuna
Barcelona restored their eight point advantage after Real cut the lead down to five with a victory over Valencia. Guardiola sent out a starting XI that featured only a handful of regulars and Osasuna made it difficult for them to get the ball rolling. Despite the slow start Barcelona scored the opener when Jeffrén Suárez sent a perfect low cross to the sliding David Villa who ended his eleven game scoreless streak (24'). It was a poor match the rest of the way as both teams struggled to get anything going. In the final stages of the game substitute Lionel Messi scored his 50th goal of the season (87').

Athletic Bilbao 2 - 1 Real Sociedad
In the hard fought Basque derby Athletic Bilbao reaped the spoils of victory and strengthened their bid for European football in the next season. All three goals were scored in the opening thirty minutes, the first one coming when Iker Muniain pounced on a rebound that was sitting on the doorstep (18'). Gaizka Toquero doubled the lead when he beat Claudio Bravo with a low shot (28').

Only two minutes later Athletic scored again, but this time it was in their own net. Javi Martínez was the defender that deflected the cross past Raúl Fernández. The hosts controlled the remainder of the match, but they weren't able to completely stop Real Sociedad's offense and Raúl had to be alert throughout and made a couple brilliant saves.

RCD Mallorca 2 - 0 Getafe CF
Struggling Getafe for the fourth time in five games failed to put any points on the board and they are slowly inching closer to the relegation zone. The islanders, who have also been bellow-par lately, were looking likelier to end the bad stretch and when Sergio Tejera sent a corner kick to the unmarked Nunes who powered home the header, they took the lead. The visitors responded and came close to the equalizer but Dudu Aouate kept a clean sheet. Akihiro Ienaga doubled the lead after he connected with a corner kick (67') and ended all doubts about the winner.

Sporting Gijón 1 - 0 RCD Espanyol
Espanyol's Europa League hopes took a severe dip after a surprising loss against the in-form Sporting Gijón. The hosts, however, have been enjoying their best run of the season, losing just once on their last seven games. Chances were few and far between in what was not a very entertaining match. The Catalans struggled to get on the same page as they played without eight starters, all missing the game through injury. Sporing ensured the victory when Nacho Novo fortuitously received the ball at the far post and just barely put it past Idriss Kameni (70')

Hércules CF 1 - 0 Deportivo La Coruña
Hércules picked up three vital points in their quest to retain a place in the top-flight league. The hosts were the better side throughout the game, but they struggled to constantly threaten Daniel Aranzubia as the majority of shots sailed wide. The breakthrough finally came in the second half. Hércules were on a quick attack, the ball came to Kiko on the right side who sent a high cross in front where Tiago Gomes rose the highest and gave the home fans a reason to cheer for (60'). It was the midfielders first goal of the season. In the final thirty minutes Hércules defended well enough that win was never in doubt.

Racing Santander 1 - 2 Málaga CF
For just the second time in the season Málaga won consecutive games, a stretch that not only lifted them from the drop zone, but also put some daylight between them and a place in the Segunda División. Julio Baptista put the visitors in the lead with a simply stunning 28 yard drive (32'). Just three minutes later the Brazilian was again involved as he attempted an overhead kick, but the mishit try turned out to be a perfect assist as the ball dropped to Sebastián Fernández who scored from up-close. Racing pressed to get something from the game, but all the hosts managed was a consolidation goal by Markus Rosenberg from near the penalty spot (73').

Atlético Madrid 4 - 1 Levante UD
Los Colchoneros continued their recent good form with a dominating victory over the also in-form Levante. The hosts controlled the game from the get-go and took the lead in the 19th minute, when midfielder Elias dispatched a 17 yard free kick into the top left corner. Atlético looked destined to add to the lead, but had to settle for a tie at halftime, as Felipe Caicedo fired home a penalty kick (39').

It was all Atlético Madrid in the second half and Sergio Agüero quickly broke the deadlock with a perfectly placed long-range shot (50'). Atlético pushed for more and they were given a fantastic chance to do so in the 70th minute. Diego Costa was brought down in the penalty area by Sergio Ballesteros and "Kun" scored his second of the night. The scoring was complete when Elias sent in a hard corner that deflected off goalkeeper Gustavo Munua into his own net (84').

Sevilla FC 3 - 2 Villarreal CF
Villarreal's bad run continued in a thrilling match at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. Sevilla got off to a fantastic start, as they were up by two before the 15 minute mark. Firstly Ivan Rakitić sent a 20 yard free kick over the wall and under the crossbar (9'). Five minutes later Álvaro Negredo doubled the lead with a well placed chip over Diego Lopez. The rest off the half was also action packed, but neither team scored.

In the 56th minute Villarreal won a corner kick. They played it short and after a handful passes the ball got to Carlos Marchena who fired it to the far corner for his first league goal for the Yellow Submarine. Six minutes later substitute Romaric restored the two goal lead after a quick counterattack. Villarreal sent everybody on the attack and they were given a glimmer of hope when Giuseppe Rossi beat Javi Varas with a brilliant shot (73'). A couple minutes later Rossi hit the post, but Villarreal had work cut out for them when Marchena received his second yellow card, a dismissal the visitors never recovered from.

Real Zaragoza 1 - 0 UD Almería
La Liga's bottom two teams battled it out in one of the last chances to improve their odds of a top-17 finish. Zaragoza were the better team throughout the game, but they faced Diego Alves in Almería's net. The goalkeeper ended the night with an amazing eleven saves, but he was beaten by a shot that officially wasn't even a shot. Gabi fired from 16 yards, but the ball ricocheted off the post into Alves' lower back and rolled into the net. It was an unlucky break for Almería who defended bravely, but with the win Real Zaragoza again climb out of the drop zone.

Recap
Only five rounds left and while there are (strong) indications where teams will finish the season, nothing yet is written in stone. The benchmark for retaining a spot in the Primera División is expected to be around 40 points. In the last ten years only four teams that reached that total failed to end the season outside of the relegation zone. The only team that has so far all but secured a demotion is Almería.

Goals were aplenty this week, as 32 times the ball reached the back of the net, which is a seven goal improvement over a week ago. Only two tallies came from the penalty kicks, interestingly enough both of them came in the same game. In keeping with recent trends, referees again decided to keep the flashing of the red card to a minimum, as again only one player was sent to the locker room.

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GP W D L +/- Pts
1 same FC Barcelona 33
28
4
1 71
88
2 same Real Madrid 33 25 5 3
53
80
3 same Valencia CF 33 19 6
8
16
63
4 same Villarreal CF 33 17 6
10
12
57
5 same Athletic Bilbao 33 16
3
14
4
51
6 same Sevilla FC
33 14 7
12 8
49
7 same Atlético Madrid 33 14 7
12
10
49
8 same RCD Espanyol
33 14 3
16
-6
45
9 up RCD Mallorca 33 12
6
15
-10
42
10 down Levante UD
33 12
6
15
-9
42
11 same Sporting Gijón 33 10
11
12
-6
41
12 same Real Sociedad 33 12
2
19
-14
38
13 same Deportivo La Coruña 33 9
11
13
-14 38
14 same Getafe CF 33 10
7
16
-10 37
15 same Racing Santander
33 9
10
14
-17 37
16 up Málaga CF 33 10
6
17
-19 36
17 up Real Zaragoza 33 9
9
15 -13 36
18 down Osasuna
33 9
8
16
-4 35
19 same Hércules CF 33 9
6
18
-20 33
20 same UD Almería 33 5
11
16 -26 26