At this point, you can separate the remainder of La Liga's season into a few key numbers.
- Seven: The amount of games remaining for each team on the schedule.
- Three: The difference in points between the top three teams on the table. Atletico Madrid is atop the table with 76, followed by Barcelona with 75 and Real Madrid with 73.
- Sixty-four: Barcelona's league-leading goal differential, far superior to Real Madrid (54) and Atletico (47).
- Six: The amount of points separating Athletic Bilbao (56) from Real Sociedad (50) and Sevilla (50) for fourth place and the last qualifying place in next year's Champions League. This is also the amount of points separating teams ranked from No. 11 to No. 19 on the table, all trying to avoid the relegation zone.
- Forty-five: The number of days until Barcelona and Atletico Madrid play on the final day of the season, almost assuredly with a La Liga title on the line.
Those are the numbers. Below, you'll find this week's table and analysis heading into the weekend's action, including the key players to watch.
Let's get to it.
|Friday at 3 p.m.||Almeria||Osasuna||beIN Sport Play||Almeria win, 1-0|
|Saturday at 10 a.m.||Atletico Madrid||Villarreal||beIN Sport Play||Atletico win, 3-1|
|Saturday at noon||Barcelona||Real Betis||beIN Sport Play||Barcelona win, 5-0|
|Saturday at 2 p.m.||Real Sociedad||Real Madrid||beIN Sport Play||Real Madrid win, 1-0|
|Saturday at 4 p.m.||Rayo Vallecano||Celta Vigo||beIN Sport Play||Draw, 1-1|
|Sunday at 6 a.m.||Malaga||Granada||beIN Sport Play||Draw, 1-1|
|Sunday at 11 a.m.||Elche||Getafe||beIN Sport Play||Elche win, 1-0|
|Sunday at 1 p.m.||Sevilla FC||Espanyol||beIN Sport Play||Sevilla win, 2-0|
|Sunday at 3 p.m.||Real Valladolid||Valencia||beIN Sport Play||Draw, 1-1|
|Monday at 4 p.m.||Levante||Athletic Bilbao||beIN Sport Play||Athletic Bilbao win, 1-0|
Streaming - http://www.beinsportsplay.tv/schedule
Surely no one is taking Cristiano Ronaldo for granted this season? After all, the Portuguese superstar has scored 48 goals and added 13 assists in all competitions for Real Madrid this year. I mean, how could anyone take that for granted?
According to Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid supporters have found a way, as he told AS (translated by Dermot Corrigan of ESPN) in lieu of supporters whistling at him during last weekend's 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
“The fans do not appreciate that every three days there is a match and that takes a toll on us,” he said. “[Ronaldo] is a bull, he withstands it all. It is difficult to hold him back, with what we have.”
Yet they whistle. You can bet just about every club in the world would be more than happy to have Ronaldo and you better believe that Real Madrid wouldn't be anywhere close to the top of the La Liga table without him this season.
Per Corrigan's report, Ronaldo is likely to play this weekend after injuring a recurring knee issue forced him to leave the mid-week Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund. So that's a relief for Los Blancos.
Meanwhile, Neymar has been labeled a diver. Again. Except this time it isn't a legion of an opponent's fans, or a member of a media that has made the accusation.
No, it's the greatest footballer in Brazilian history (and arguably in the history of any country). That's right—Pele.
From Alex Labidou of ESPN:
The football legend agreed with increasing criticism of Neymar's tendency to dive in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC on Wednesday.
'Yes, yes, he had this problem in Santos also,' Pele said. 'I think he tries to create fouls and situations that are not there. But now he got much better because in Europe, things are different.'
Meanwhile, all eyes turn toward Atletico Madrid's star striker Diego Costa, who left the club's Champions League clash with Barca in the first half due to a thigh injury. The severity of Costa's injury remains unknown, but he could miss up to two weeks of action, if not more.
At the very least, he won't be in action this weekend or for Atletico against Barca next week. Atletico's match against Villarreal is no easy task, though the table-leaders should be able to survive without Costa in that one.
Those are the individual storylines for the top three teams. All will be expected to win this weekend regardless.
But boy, are there some intriguing matchups lower on the table. Almeria and Osasuna battle in the "Toilet Bowl," as a win could potentially vault either side out of the relegation zone. Athletic Bilbao will look to at least pick up points at Levante and that team's tough defense.
With Villarreal facing Atletico and Real Sociedad facing Los Blancos, Sevilla will hope they can launch themselves into fifth place and potentially within striking distance of Bilbao. Just don't expect Espanyol to roll over and allow it to happen.