In what looked set to be a crucial round of fixtures in the La Liga title race, points dropped by Atlético, Barcelona and Real Madrid over the weekend leaves us with no clear title favourite with three games left to play.
Atlético maintained their two-point lead at the top of the La Liga table despite their stalemate with the Catalans on Saturday afternoon, as Real Madrid also drew with Sevilla on Sunday night in an entertaining 2-2 clash.
The tense race for La Liga glory will continue, and with the unpredictable nature of the chasing pack’s results – we can expect plenty of surprises as the season draws to a close.
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Will wasteful Barca rue missed opportunity?
Victory over Atlético Madrid at the Camp Nou would have sent Barcelona top, instead they remain two points behind Los Colchoneros, and lie third in the standings due to Real Madrid’s superior goal difference.
It took the Blaugrana 40 minutes to register their first clear sight on goal, and who else, other than their main man Lionel Messi.
The Barca captain picked up the ball just inside Atlético’s half, and glided past six red and white shirts before forcing Jan Oblak into a smart save, as he tipped the ball behind for a corner.
The Atlético stopper was alert once more to save a fierce freekick from Messi in the 65th minute.
However, Barcelona’s clearest opportunity fell to Ousmane Dembélé five minutes from time.
Jordi Alba found space down the left-hand side and sent a cross into the box which the onrushing Dembélé could only head over with the goal at his mercy.
It marked a frustrating afternoon for the Catalans who have ground to make up with little time to do so.
There will be no room for error in Barcelona’s three remaining games of the season, and a lack of composure in the final third will have to be promptly addressed by manager Ronald Koeman if they are to end Real’s reign.
In truth, a disciplined Atlético side deservedly took a point back to Madrid, and could have easily stolen all three with man of the match Yannick Carrasco lively throughout.
Diego Simeone and his players will be wary of the fact hopes of clinching the La Liga title for the first time since 2014 are now in their hands.
VAR takes centre stage as Real fail to capitalise on rival’s dropped points
All eyes turned to Sunday’s showdown at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano between Real Madrid and Sevilla after Atlético and Barca’s goalless draw.
For Real the objective was clear, secure victory in Madrid and they would take control of the title race.
Easy right? Unfortunately not, as 21 minutes into the encounter and Zidane and his men found themselves a goal down after a wonderfully worked freekick from Sevilla.
Suso played the set piece short to Jesús Navas who cut inside and crossed a wicked ball into the Madrid penalty area. Ivan Rakitic’s header dropped to the feet of Fernando Reges who showed brilliant composure to cut back past Casemiro and guide the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
Madrid pressed for an equaliser before halftime but Sevilla stood firm, with goalkeeper Yassine Bono twice called into action.
However, the Moroccan international was unable to keep out Marco Asensiso’s near post effort in the 65thminute, as Toni Kroos picked out the substitute a minute after he had come on.
Drama then struck thirteen minutes from time.
As Eder Militao had leapt to clear a Sevilla corner, the ball had hit his outstretched arm. There were immediate calls for a penalty but the referee had not seen it and suddenly Madrid were on the counter.
Karim Benzema ran clear and rounded Bono only for the Frenchman to be bought down by the Sevilla stopper.
A penalty was immediately awarded to Madrid, however their celebrations were short-lived as referee Juan Martínez Munuera was called over to the VAR monitor and after careful consideration, instead pointed to the Madrid spot for Militao’s handball.
Rakitic showed his composure as the former Barcelona man stepped up and sent Courtois the wrong way to put his side ahead on the night once more.
As the clock hit the 90th minute, it looked to be a memorable night for Sevilla with victory moving them within a point of third-placed Real.
There was, however, to be a final twist in the tail as Kroos’ shot deflected in off Eden Hazard’s foot to level the scoring in the 95th minute.
Despite salvaging a point from the game, the frustration was clearly visible from Los Blancos as they remain two points behind their Madrid rivals.
Remaining La Liga Fixtures
Although Atlético’s fate now lies in their own hands, two of their remaining three fixtures come against European chasing Real Sociedad, and relegation-threatened Real Valladolid.
Both sides will be in need of securing maximum points from their remaining league outings, and so it is the league leaders who are faced with the trickiest run-in.
Atlético Madrid: Real Sociedad (H) May 12th, Osasuna (H) May 16th, Real Valladolid (A) May 23rd
All three of Real’s remaining games come against sides in the top half of the La Liga table.
Europa League finalists Villarreal are battling it out for European qualification for next seasons’ campaign, whilst Granada and Athletic Bilbao will be aiming for strong finishes to the season.
Real Madrid: Granada (A) May 13th, Athletic Bilbao (A) May 16th, Villarreal (H) May 23rd
Barcelona’s final three tests pose as the easiest run-in out of the title contenders, however currently sitting third, there is no room for error for the Blaugrana.
Nine points from nine is an absolute necessity for the Catalan giants and a final trip to Eibar who are desperately battling it out to avoid the drop, will pose as a stern test on the day the La Liga crown will no doubt be decided.
Barcelona: Levante (A) May 11th, Celta de Vigo (H) May 16th, Eibar (A) May 23rd
La Liga Results
La Liga Table
La Liga Live Streaming
All of this weekend’s La Liga fixtures will be available to watch online.