The epic race at the top of the La Liga table continued in Week 31 as the clubs jockeying for position in the top four did little to create separation when all was said and done on Saturday.
Of course, it would be erroneous to not examine the rest of the table after Saturday's exciting action, as the mess below the top clubs is in no way close to being sorted out with a few matches to go.
Let's take a look at the updated table with Saturday's action in the books.
|La Liga Table (as of 3/29/14)|
Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol
Thanks to Lionel Messi (who else?), Barcelona gets a major boost in the odds they retain their Primera Division title.
Messi's penalty with 14 minutes left settled the derby, which is a familiar sight as his third successful penalty in six days. He said afterward, with a bit of breathing room established for Barcelona, that his side is at the form they would like to remain:
The kick was a thing of beauty as it maneuvered past goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, but the real focal point should be Barcelona's inability to convert on quality opportunities, as eight shots on goal and 72 percent possession still resulted in a narrow victory.
There is little time to rest for Barcelona after a furious first period and tranquil second, as the first four spots remain in flux.
Celta Vigo 1-0 Sevilla
Rinse and repeat.
A late penalty from Nolito allowed Celta Vigo to edge Sevilla in a massive upset.
Unai Emery's side had won six in a row entering the fixture and had even taken down Real Madrid days earlier, but Saturday held possession just 39 percent, committed 12 fouls and only took three shots on goal.
As Sergi Dominguez of Espcore illustrates, it was a vital win for Celta Vigo:
After a lackadaisical approach for most of the contest, Sevilla seemed to awaken after the goal, but Celta Vigo goalkeeper Yoel Rodriguez Oterino denied both Nicolas Pareja and Carlos Bacca in stoppage time to finish things.
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Athletic
It took an epic comeback for Atletico Madrid to remain atop the Primera Division after Saturday's fixtures.
Things got off to a rocky start as Iker Muniain found the back of the net with five minutes played. Diego Costa then took over with a goal halfway through the first half before Koke put Diego Simeone's side up for good 10 minutes after the restart.
Koke spoke about his side's big performance after the match:
Atletico now have 76 points as pursuit of their unexpected crown continues. With assists expert Koke and the seemingly score-at-will Costa leading the charge, it is only right Atletico sits atop the table.
Real Madrid 5-0 Rayo
A putrid week had a happy ending for Real Madrid, as Gareth Bale took charge and scored twice to take down Rayo Vallecano with ease.
Bale's solo goal in particular was a thing of beauty:
Cristiano Ronaldo was in on the action early as well. Despite just 45 percent possession, Real Madrid was able to avoid a historic stretch and snap a two-match losing streak.
Madrid remains just a few points behind Atletico and appears back to form, so expect things to continue to be tense.