La Liga is being shaken up yet again at the top.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid entered the weekend all tied for the top spot in the league with 60 points.
However, Barcelona fell on Saturday to Real Sociedad, 3-1 on the road as they failed to pick up a single point. Since Real Madrid won 3-0 against Elche on Saturday, they move into the sole league lead.
Atletico Madrid were thrashed 3-0 by Osasuna on the road Sunday, and are also three points back heading into Matchday 26.
Let's break down the league table for Week 25, the weekend fixtures and a recap of the games.
|Feb. 21||Real Valladolid||1-1||Levante|
|Feb. 22||Real Madrid||3-0||Elche|
|Feb. 22||Celta Vigo||1-1||Getafe|
|Feb. 22||Real Sociedad||3-1||Barcelona|
|Feb. 23||Rayo Vallecano||0-1||Sevilla|
|Feb. 23||Real Betis||0-2||Athletic Bilbao|
|Feb. 23||Osasuna||3-0||Atletico Madrid|
Espanyol 1 - 2 Villarreal
Villarreal leapfrogged Real Sociedad for fifth in the La Liga table after toppling Espanyol 2-1 on Monday evening.
Led by Moi Gomez and Jeremy Perbet, El Submarino Amarillo took a 2-0 lead shortly after halftime and never looked back. Espanyol's Jhon Cordoba would cut the deficit in half in the 77th minute, but it wasn't enough as Sergio Garcia squandered a penalty shot in the waning moments to seal Los Periquitos' fate.
For his stellar effort on the back line, Villarreal defender Bojan Jokic came away with Man of the Match honors. In addition to completing nearly 80 percent of his passes (per WhoScored.com), he recorded three tackles and won several aerial challenges.
Sunday's Top Results
Osasuna 3 - 0 Atletico Madrid
Barcelona's 3-1 loss to Real Sociedad opened the door for Atletico Madrid to go into a tie with Real Madrid for first in La Liga. Just when it seemed Diego Simeone's side had put to rest any doubts that an impending midseason implosion was on the way, Atletico lost 3-0 to Osasuna on Sunday.
Although they only remain three points back of Real Madrid, you get the sense that Atletico Madrid's title hopes have gone out the door now. They need to be near perfect the rest of the season, and they simply don't have the squad, nor title pedigree that Madrid and Barca have.
Everything will depend on the Madrid Derby next week. A loss and Atletico are out for good.
Real Betis 0 - 2 Athletic Bilbao
With Sociedad's 3-1 win, the pressure on Athletic Bilbao grew on Sunday. Those were unexpected points for La Real, so Bilbao would want to ensure they had a four-point gap in the battle for the fourth spot. Considering they were playing Real Betis, it wasn't a gargantuan task.
Betis are one of two clubs that look destined for the drop. They're now 11 points off Malaga in 17th, and considering the fact that they've collected 14 points through 25 matches, it would seem the relegation fight is already over.
Betis did offer some resistance on Sunday, getting 11 shots, four of which were on target. With Iker Muniain's penalty in the 34th minute and Damien Perquis' sending-off in the 41st, the match was all but over in the first half.
Saturday's Top Results
Real Madrid 3 - 0 Elche
Real Madrid took hold of the La Liga lead outright, at least for one day, on Saturday with their 3-0 win over Elche at home in the Santiago Bernabeu.
It took some time for Madrid to get going, but recent addition Asier Illarramendi broke through in the 34th minute to give Madrid a 1-0 lead heading into the halftime break. After that, Gareth Bale ripped a magnificent strike into the net in the 71st minute and Isco added the third just 10 minutes later.
The scoreline looked out of hand, but Madrid were worked hard as Elche fouled 19 times and was able to hold possession for 42 percent of the game—more than most opponents of their caliber in the Bernabeu.
Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa echoed that, saying it was a hard-fought match per the club's official site:
"Although the result may make it seem like an easy win, it was a very hard-fought match. You have to learn how to suffer as well. They had a chance to make it 2-1, but with the next move we made it 3-0”.
Since Barcelona fell on Saturday and Atletico Madrid don't play until Sunday, Arbeloa and company go to sleep Saturday as sole leaders of La Liga.
It remains to be seen if they will hold the outright lead past the weekend, but they'll at least have a share.
Real Sociedad 3 - 1 Barcelona
Barcelona suffered yet another letdown in this La Liga season, going on the road and falling 3-1 at Real Sociedad on Saturday afternoon.
As they typically do, La Blaugrana dominated possession. They held a 65-35 advantage despite playing on the road.
But Sociedad proved to be patient, allowing Barcelona to pass the ball but clamping down on defense and preventing anything from forming. Other than Lionel Messi's 36th-minute strike, the reigning La Liga champs didn't have any luck penetrating the host's defense.
Meanwhile, Sociedad were crazy efficient on offense. While only three of their 15 shots went on goal, all of them were scored.
Since Madrid pulled out the win on Saturday, Barcelona are assured to be out of first place heading into next weekend. But given how this season has gone, it's far from over as they are just three back.
Real Valladolid 1 - 1 Levante
For the second straight week, the La Liga weekend slate started with a draw on Friday as Levante stood tall and pulled out a point on the road at hapless Real Valladolid, 1-1.
Valladolid dominated the game, firing 11 shots in total to Levante's three. They also held an overwhelming possession advantage, owning the ball for 67 percent of the match.
But Victor Casadesus broke through in the 25th minute to give Levante an early lead. Despite Javi Guerra's 52nd-minute score that tied things up, Valladolid couldn't complete the comeback to get the full three points.
Valladolid will be even more down after this result, considering the 18th-place club hasn't seen much success this season and played one of their best games overall. Still in relegation zone, the pressure is certainly on this club to finish strong and avoid decline.