Barcelona are in the driver's seat in La Liga following Atletico Madrid's 0-0 draw with Sevilla at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday.
Atleti remain level on points with Barca, with the Catalans ahead on goal differential. The reigning champions have a game in hand as well, and should they win that, they'll be clear at the top:
|La Liga Table—Matchday 21|
|9||Deportivo La Coruna||21||6||11||4||+3||29|
|Source: ESPN FC|
|La Liga Results—Matchday 21|
|Friday, Jan. 22||Sporting Gijon||5-1||Real Sociedad|
|Saturday, Jan. 23||Malaga||1-2||Barcelona|
|Saturday, Jan. 23||Espanyol||2-2||Villarreal|
|Saturday, Jan. 23||Granada||3-2||Getafe|
|Saturday, Jan. 23||Rayo Vallecano||3-0||Celta Vigo|
|Sunday, Jan. 24||Athletic Bilbao||5-2||Eibar|
|Sunday, Jan. 24||Atletico Madrid||0-0||Sevilla|
|Sunday, Jan. 24||Deportivo La Coruna||1-1||Valencia|
|Sunday, Jan. 24||Real Betis||1-1||Real Madrid|
|Monday, Jan. 25||Levante||-||Las Palmas|
|Source: ESPN FC|
Sunday's result will be extremely frustrating for Atletico manager Diego Simeone. His club was wasteful in the final third, registering 21 total shots but only three shots on target, per ESPN FC. In addition, Atletico played the final 39 minutes with a man advantage after Sevilla winger Vitolo earned his second yellow card in the 61st minute.
Atleti haven't been as free-scoring as Barcelona or Real Madrid in La Liga this year, but Simeone will have expected more. Forward Antoine Griezmann had the best chance of the match, with his header hitting the post in the 53rd minute.
"We created chances but they just wouldn't go in," said Atleti midfielder Koke, per the Associated Press' Joseph Wilson (via the Washington Post). "We have always said finishing third is our goal. But we will give it our all next game at Barcelona."
Although Jackson Martinez only played the final 14 minutes plus injury time, beIN Sports' David Cartlidge was disappointed with the contributions of the Atletico attacker:
David Cartlidge @davidjaca
Jackson on for 15 minutes, touched ball once. No shot on goal, no movement, no association with team system off ball.1/24/2016, 4:57:17 PM
Los Colchoneros continue to have one of the best defenses in Europe, but as the Agence France-Presse's Kieran Canning noted, defense isn't going to cut it for the club much longer:
Kieran Canning @KieranCanning
14th clean sheet in 21 league games, only one goal conceded in 8, but lack of goals always going to cost Atletico sooner or later1/24/2016, 5:16:10 PM
Griezmann can only carry the attack so much. Martinez has been a major disappointment since arriving from Porto, and one of he, Fernando Torres or Luciano Vietto will need to start scoring a little more regularly if Atletico are to maintain their title challenge.
Matchday 22 will go a long way toward revealing whether Atleti are true contenders. They face off with Barcelona in the Camp Nou on Jan. 30. They lost 2-1 to Barca at home earlier in the year, with second-half strikes from Neymar and Lionel Messi giving the Catalans the three points.
A defeat wouldn't be the end of the world for Atletico Madrid, but they can ill afford to allow Barcelona to gain what could be a six-point gap at this stage of the season.
In Sunday's first match, Athletic Bilbao had a bit of trouble but eventually cruised in the second half to a 5-2 victory over Eibar. Striker Aritz Aduriz registered a brace in the win, providing an equaliser in the 12th minute and then giving Athletic a 4-2 lead in the 52nd minute.
The final scoreline is a bit deceiving, as Eibar had nine shots to Athletic's 10 and 45 percent of possession, per ESPN FC. Eibar defender Mauro dos Santos also gifted Athletic a goal in the 80th minute to put the match firmly out of reach.
A goal from forward Alvaro Negredo in the third minute of stoppage time salvaged a draw for Valencia against Deportivo La Coruna. The pressure on manager Gary Neville remains, though, as Los Che remain winless since he replaced Nuno Espirito Santo.
Going back to Nuno's tenure, Valencia are on an even worse streak, per OptaJose:
10 - Valencia have gone 10 league games without a victory, their longest such run in the top-flight since March 1986 (13). Worry.1/24/2016, 7:08:38 PM
As if Negredo's late goal wasn't lucky enough, Neville and his side benefited from a poor officiating decision that saw Lucas Perez's goal ruled out for offside in the 74th minute. A 2-0 lead was likely enough to see Deportivo through to victory.
Even in defeat, Neville was probably not looking at the sack. Rarely is making three different changes at manager in the same season a good idea. Plus, Valencia's issues go much deeper than Neville's inexperience on the touchline.
Only in the event Valencia find themselves in a relegation fight should majority owner Peter Lim consider pushing Neville out the door.
With league matches against Sporting Gijon, Real Betis, Espanyol and Granada ahead, Valencia's fortunes should start turning around.
Zinedine Zidane's fortunes have run counter to those of Neville since taking over for Rafael Benitez at Real Madrid. The Spanish giants suffered their first draw under Zidane on Sunday, though. A Karim Benzema equalizer in the 71st minute earned Madrid one point in a 1-1 stalemate with Real Betis.
ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan drew attention to how Zidane continues to struggle whenever he makes the trip to face off against Real Betis:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
Zidane now visited Betis six times - as Bordeaux starlet, Madrid galactico & Madrid coach. Not won yet.1/24/2016, 9:40:33 PM
Winger Alvaro Cejudo had given Betis a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute with one of the goals of the weekend. BeIN Sports USA offered a good look at the impressive volley:
beIN SPORTS USA @beINSPORTSUSA
THIS IS HOW YOU SCORE GOALS! @realbetis goes up after 8 mins. #LaLiga https://t.co/EqwK2fPWUV1/24/2016, 7:40:23 PM
Madrid were arguably lucky to even walk away with a draw. Midfielder James Rodriguez looked to be offside before he provided the assist for Benzema's goal:
beIN SPORTS USA @beINSPORTSUSA
.@RealMadrid equalize against @RealBetis but there may be some controversy. #LaLiga https://t.co/ct0edDfRLl1/24/2016, 8:58:51 PM
On one hand, Betis have reason to be upset with the linesman missing the offside call, thus depriving them of a win. On the other hand, earning a draw against Madrid is always a positive result no matter what happens during the 90 minutes.
The two dropped points could be big for Real Madrid. They remain four points back of Atletico and Barcelona, and Barca could make the difference as big as seven points by winning their game in hand.
Overcoming a likely seven-point deficit isn't impossible, but given the way they've played this year, Barcelona aren't going to drop many more points between now and the end of the season. Madrid will have a hard time overtaking their hated rivals for the top spot.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!