Another matchday, another step closer to breaking up the Spanish duopoly for Atletico Madrid. Los Colchoneros are now just five matches away from doing the improbable.
Can Atletico Madrid hold off Real Madrid and Barcelona?
Los Colchoneros now hold a six-point lead over Real Madrid and a seven-point lead over Barcelona. Of course, the other two teams will be in action in Week 34—Barcelona on Sunday and Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Those two matches will have an impact on the top standings of La Liga, but there are other compelling matchups to monitor as well. Malaga and Villarreal will take part in a competitive match on Monday, while Real Sociedad and Espanyol will also look to stay competitive on Saturday.
There's a lot to monitor in Week 34, and the tables and analysis below will help you keep track of the results and which players scored goals.
Here is a look at who found the back of the net on Matchday 34:
|1||Roque Santa Cruz||Malaga|
|1||Joao Miranda||Atletico Madrid|
|1||Diego Costa||Atletico Madrid|
|1||Sergio Canales||Real Sociedad|
|1||Carlos Vela||Real Sociedad|
|1||Fabian Orellana||Celta Vigo|
|1||Ruben Rochina||Rayo Vallecano|
|1||Joaquin Larrivey||Rayo Vallecano|
|1||Francisco Chica Torres||Real Betis|
|1||Artiz Aduriz||Athletic Bilbao|
Week 34 Recap
There was just one match on Friday, as Atletico Madrid did battle with Elche in the Spanish capital. Elche fell 2-0 in the previous match between the two teams this year, and the result was identical on Friday.
Elche were at a disadvantage heading in, as their struggles away from home have been prominent:
0 - Elche have lost 7 and won none of their last nine away league games (D2), last winning on the road at Real Betis in Oct (1-2). Difficult— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 18, 2014
That being said, these two teams were competitive over the first 45 minutes of play. Diego Costa and David Villa both had very early chances for Los Colchoneros, but neither could convert. The two combined for another chance several minutes later, but Sergio Pelegrin was on hand to defend the play.
Javi Marquez then began a string of three straight chances for Elche in the 26th minute, but none of the opportunities were met with positive results. A relatively uneventful remainder of the half brought on the second portion of play with both teams looking to take the lead.
Villa was awarded a penalty kick that was sent straight at the goalkeeper in the 50th minute, leaving everyone waiting even longer for the match's first goal. That strike finally came in the 72nd minute off the head of Joao Miranda. He redirected a corner from Jose Ernesto Sosa into the back of the net.
That would be all of the scoring until time added on. Costa won a penalty kick after Cristian Sapunaru was given a red card for pulling the striker to the ground inside the box. Needless to say, Costa converted from the spot.
Off the field, Costa has been caught up in some transfer rumors with Chelsea. Regarding the move, manager Diego Simeone had this to say, via SkySports.com:
I will support any decision he makes. It's natural that Chelsea are interested in him and that makes me happy, because my aim and that of my coaching staff is to see our players improve.
We understand that Chelsea have huge financial power and if he wants to live off football for the rest of his life, I will have no problem in him going.
That situation will eventually resolve itself, but for now, he's a key member of this Atletico Madrid team.
Now six points ahead of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid are in prime position to win La Liga.
In the first match of the day, Valencia seemed like it was going to waste a solid effort with a loss in a road match against Osasuna. They gave up an early goal to Oriol Riera Magem and struggled mightily in the final third despite holding possession for almost two-thirds of the match.
Fortunately, they were able to get an equaliser from Jonas off the bench, as described by AS:
Equaliser for Valencia! Jonas brings Los Che level, controlling on the run and firing in low past Andrés. Osasuna 1-1 Valencia, 81 mins.— AS English (@English_AS) April 19, 2014
The draw remains disappointing for Valencia as the club still hopes to get into Europa League, but a loss would have been even worse. The chances of catching the teams above them are not great, but it is not impossible.
Meanwhile, Real Sociedad had a much better day thanks to a late goal by Carlos Vela. The former Arsenal man drilled a shot in the box in the 91st minute, which was enough to give his side the victory and move into sixth place in the table for the moment.
Sergio Canales also had an impressive goal for Sociedad from a tough angle in the 32nd minute. This was needed to equalise after Espanyol got on the scoresheet with a score from Jhon Cordoba. Sam Marsden of Sport describes the opening goal:
My man Jhon Cordoba opens the scoring for Espanyol at Real Sociedad. Nice turn, good strength and a decent finish.— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) April 19, 2014
Despite the strong start from the road team, Real Sociedad got the goals when it mattered to secure the victory.
There was not quite as much excitement when Levante took on Getafe. The two sides combined for few opportunities near the net and it led to a scoreless draw.
This result actually benefits Getafe as it pulls them even with Real Valladolid for 16th place as they look to escape the relegation zone. A few more points in the final matches should be enough to remain in the top-flight league.
Sunday's slate included four exciting matches, but for all intensive purposes, the entire day boiled down to one showdown.
And Barcelona were able to stand tall in said showdown and win a crucial home affair against Athletic Bilbao, 2-1.
Lionel Messi has struggled to find form in recent weeks, but looked to be a much different player on Sunday with the game-winning goal.
It came in the 74th minute off a splendid free kick, just two minutes after Pedro got Barcelona an equalizer, and marked one step closer to another milestone for Messi, per ESPN Stats and Information:
Lionel Messi: 241st La Liga goal, 10 shy of the all-time record held by Telmo Zarra— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 20, 2014
But even though he was able to redeem himself eventually, Messi missed yet another point-blank chance with Barcelona still behind that marked the 21st "clear-cut" miss he's had this year, per WhoScored.com:
Lionel Messi: Has now missed more clear-cut chances (21) than any other player in La Liga this season— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 20, 2014
Other than Barcelona, there were no title contenders in action as Atletico Madrid already played and Real Madrid have yet to play. But there were still some high-scoring affairs.
Celta Vigo went on the road to beat Almeria, 4-2 fueled by a brace from Nolito. Rayo Vallecano and Sevilla both poured on offense to their visiting opponents in big victories.
But the overlying theme of Sunday in La Liga was Barcelona making a big statement that they aren't dead yet in the title race with their 2-1 victory over Bilbao.