Iago Aspas scored a brace to lead Celta Vigo to a 2-1 win over Granada during Monday's La Liga action, keeping the Galicians alive in the race for a spot in next year's UEFA Champions League.
The former Liverpool man struck from the penalty spot before half-time and added a second goal from close range after the break, ensuring Celta would walk away with three points. The result means Granada still sit just one point above the relegation zone.
Barcelona maintain the best title odds ahead of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, but the two clubs from the capital have seen their chances of winning the title improve greatly in the last few weeks.
Here’s a look at the La Liga standings:
|La Liga Standings|
|14||Deportivo La Coruna||35||7||18||10||43||57||-14||39|
The latest title odds, courtesy of Oddschecker.com:
|La Liga Standings|
Celta dominated Granada early and deservedly took the lead through Aspas, who converted a penalty after 16 minutes. Per OptaJose, the former Liverpool man has found plenty of success against the Andalusians:
Vigo pressed for a second goal but weren’t very clinical in front of goal, missing a number of open chances. Over-passing was an issue in the first half, as the hosts almost seemed afraid to shoot the ball at times and instead kept looking for open team-mates.
Robbie Dunne of Newstalk Sport still enjoyed what he saw from the Galicians, though:
Granada missed a golden opportunity for an equaliser when Adalberto Penaranda found himself with acres of space in a promising position, but instead of laying it off to Youssef El Arabi for the easy tap-in, the forward tried his luck himself and missed the chance.
Bleacher Report UK’s Karl Matchett thought it should have been a goal:
El Arabi eventually pulled the visitors level, and Granada appeared to be on their way to securing a vital point in the battle against relegation. But with 14 minutes left, Nolito played a beautiful pass into the back of the defence, and Aspas timed his run to perfection, bagging his second goal of the match from close range.
Barcelona, Real and Atletico all took care of business in Week 35, and with just three matches left this season, the title race remains as close as ever.
The Catalans find themselves in the driver’s seat, leading the standings by virtue of the head-to-head tie-breaker over Atletico. Manager Luis Enrique’s troops looked dominant in the 6-0 win over Sporting Gijon, a much-needed victory after a tough stretch for the side.
Per Robert Guell of the team’s official website, Enrique thinks the two contests away from the Camp Nou won’t be easy: "I'll stick with the positive things. We have one home game left and two away, surely it will be tough on the road but we’ll take advantage of a long week to prepare for the game against Betis."
On paper, things are looking good for the Blaugrana. Real Betis, Espanyol and Granada all rank toward the bottom of the standings, and the Catalan derby against Espanyol, perhaps the trickiest of the three matches, will be played at home.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Barcelona are the clear favourites to emerge as champions during the final stretch:
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid both still have to worry about their Champions League fixtures, which could distract the teams, and Los Blancos will still face Real Sociedad at the Anoeta, as well as Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna.
La Real’s reputation as giant-slayers at the Anoeta is well-founded, as the Basques beat Barcelona at home just a few weeks ago. Fans won’t have to be reminded of the embarrassing 4-2 loss in San Sebastian during last season, either.
Atletico will still face Rayo Vallecano, Levante and Celta Vigo, and the Galicians may well enter Week 38 in desperate need of a win themselves, if Villarreal drop more points in the race for fourth place the coming weeks.