Lionel Messi was the big winner from Week 11 of the 2019/20 La Liga season after reminding everyone why he's still the best player in the division and arguably on the planet.
Messi scored twice and created two more goals to almost singlehandedly inspire Barcelona's 5-1 rout of Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. The leaders set the bar high, but nearest rivals Real Madrid met it when they hammered Leganes 5-0 on Wednesday.
Karim Benzema was the Messi-style catalyst at the Santiago Bernabeu, scoring from the penalty spot and assisting a pair of goals. The only person connected to Los Blancos who may not have been happy is Gareth Bale, with the Welsh forward forced to see how easily Real can cope without him thanks to a bevy of other match-winners in attacking areas, including goalscorers Rodrygo and Luka Jovic.
Real and Barca already look like a class apart in the title race after Atletico Madrid faltered in Alaves on Tuesday. Settling for a 1-1 draw means Atleti ended the matchweek fourth and two points off top spot.
Real Betis don't have title ambitions, but the club's chances of staving off the threat of relegation look good after Nabil Fekir's late winner beat fellow strugglers Celta Vigo. Betis are three points and two places above the drop zone after Wednesday's win.
Winner: Lionel Messi
Messi's greatness had been in danger of being overshadowed in recent years, with his contemporary rival Cristiano Ronaldo winning four UEFA Champions League trophies in the previous six seasons.
However, a thigh injury at the start of this campaign showed the Blaugrana why Messi's enduring class is still vital to their success. While Ernesto Valverde's men made an inconsistent start to the defence of their title, things have clicked smoothly into gear since Messi got back up to speed.
The prolific No. 10 regained his scoring touch in spectacular fashion against Valladolid to again separate himself at the summit of the game:
Goals have usually defined Ronaldo, but Messi has always been about more than just finding the net. The 32-year-old has also created as consistently as any premium playmaker of his era.
His inch-perfect passes sent Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez clear to score. Suarez being back on form and among the goals is evidence of the improved support around Messi:
Aside from Suarez, Antoine Griezmann's presence and the rapid rise of Ansu Fati mean Barca have a strong-enough supporting cast around their generational talisman. The combination is sure to take the Camp Nou club to another domestic title.
Loser: Atletico's Title Challenge
Two points is a minor gap at this stage of the season, but the draw in Alaves was a telling indication of why Atleti won't beat Barca to the title. There are too many dropped points and not enough goals in this team despite the efforts to overhaul the forward line in recent years.
Alvaro Morata was brought in from Chelsea, and his goal put Atletico in a commanding position at Mendizorroza. However, Atleti couldn't pad the scoreline and put the match out of sight, a familiar failing duly punished by former Arsenal striker Lucas Perez's 83rd-minute equaliser.
Perez continuing his scoring run condemned Atletico to a fifth draw in 11 matches. It won't be difficult to work out why Atleti have come up short by season's end.
Things were supposed to be different after Griezmann was replaced by Joao Felix in the summer. Yet the 19-year-old is still adapting to life in Spain amid injury struggles, while Diego Costa is no longer the force he was during his first stint at the club.
Loser: Gareth Bale
Rodrygo, Jovic and Eden Hazard starting to exert their influence comes at the wrong time for Bale, with his future in the Spanish capital continuing to be questioned.
A report from ESPN FC's Rodrigo Faez outlined how Bale still wants to leave following a summer of problems with manager Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman tried to play down the report when he spoke (h/t Marca) on Wednesday, while Bale's agent, Jonathan Barnett, rejected the idea Bale will move to China, per Deportes Cuatro (h/t AS).
Even so, Zidane will know Real have ample alternatives to Bale after watching 18-year-old Rodrygo wow onlookers against Leganes. His skill, pace and appetite for taking on chances are making the Brazilian an instant hit in Real's front three:
Bale's eye for goal could ease the workload on established No. 9 Benzema, but Real signed Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt for the same reason. It's taken him a while, but Jovic is starting to make the grade.
Real have enough strength in depth up front to forego waiting for the ice to thaw between Bale and his manager. It likely spells the beginning of the end for the former Tottenham Hotspur forward's time in Spain.
Winner: Real Betis' Survival Hopes
Betis are still within sight of the bottom three, but the club should eventually pull further away with a forward as gifted as Fekir in the ranks. The 26-year-old struck a clutch finish in injury time to keep Celta at the wrong end of the table.
Fekir now has three goals to his credit since arriving in the Spanish top flight this summer. He's already proving a success after showcasing his talents for Lyon, and Fekir's goals and range of passing are also keeping manager Rubi in the job, according to The Guardian's Sid Lowe.
Fekir's technique—in combination with midfielders Joaquin and Sergio Canales—and their supply to strikers Borja Iglesias and Cristian Tello, can keep Betis free of the drop for the remainder of the season.