Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
There is just one round of fixtures to go until La Liga breaks up for its brief winter break. Real Madrid have already played their last league game of 2018, an unconvincing 1-0 home win over struggling Rayo Vallecano on Saturday and they head to the Club World Cup this week with fresh speculation surrounding the future of Isco.
City rivals Atletico Madrid were also made to work hard by newly promoted opposition this weekend with Antoine Griezmann’s late strike sealing a much needed away win in a surprisingly entertaining game at Valladolid. It’s status quo at the top though with all of the top four recording victories over the weekend although there has been some interesting movement in behind with Real Betis and Getafe moving into the top six. Alaves will though have a chance to leapfrog them both when they host Athletic Bilbao in a Basque derby on Monday night.
Here were some of the main stories from match-day 16 in La Liga:
Barca take emphatic revenge on Levante
13/05/2018: Levante 5-4 Barcelona—no Lionel Messi, Barça’s only league defeat of the 2017/18 season.
16/12/2018: Levante 0-5 Barcelona—Lionel Messi scores a hat-trick and assists the other two.
Cheat. Code. 🎮 pic.twitter.com/6uCMYIDAtM
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) December 16, 2018
Barcelona’s solitary league defeat last season came in Valencia on match-day 37 against Levante. The dramatic 5-4 loss denied them the chance to complete an unbeaten season on the final weekend and Ernesto Valverde was left to field questions about why he left Leo Messi out of the side but played him a few days later in an exhibition game in South Africa. The ease with which Paco Lopez’s Levante tore into the champions that day also played a big role in sealing the summer departure of Yerry Mina, who endured a nightmare in defence alongside Gerard Pique who wasn’t any better.
Therefore revenge would have been upmost in the minds of the Barcelona players as they headed to Levante again on Sunday evening. Once more, the game was an end-to-end affair and the fact the home team managed to force 15 corners will tell you it was more competitive than the final scoreline suggested. However with Leo Messi on the pitch this time and a much improved defensive performance, the Catalans cruised to a 5-0 victory.
Almost inevitably Messi would grab the headlines, scoring three and creating the other two goals. However Luis Suarez was just as good and on that kind of form, they remain by far the most devastating strike pairing in world football. At the other end, Barcelona were forced into a late change after Nelson Semedo picked up an injury in the warm-up. Ernesto Valverde’s side shifted to an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation with Thomas Vermaelen coming in and Ousmane Dembele operating almost as a wing-back. Levante had their moments but Gerard Pique marshalled things brilliantly at the back and it was somehow fitting that he popped up with the 5th goal courtesy of a fine Barca move, which was both started and finished by the marauding Catalan.
On this evidence, Barcelona are a cut above everybody else in La Liga right now and are rightfully the firm favourites to defend their title.
Sevilla make it 10 straight Home Wins
— Andaz TV (@andaz_tv) December 16, 2018
For all their brilliance over the past two weeks, Barcelona are still only 3 points clear at the top of the division and Sevilla remain their closest rivals after another victory on Sunday. Second Half goals from Ever Banega and Pablo Sarabia were enough to seal a comfortable 2-0 win over a Girona side that has been performing well on their travels. The result underlines the progress Sevilla have made under Pablo Machin but they will be grateful when the fortnight festive break comes around having played many more games than the other teams in this league due to their packed European schedule.
The foundations of their success over the past decade, both at home and abroad, have been laid at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and they are well on their way to making it a fortress again. That victory was their 10th straight home win in all competitions, a run that includes a dominant 3-0 win over Real Madrid and has seen Sevilla score 27 and concede just 4. It’s amazing to think that when they lost 2-0 at home to Getafe in mid September, Machin was on the wrong end of some criticism from the Sevilla faithful but he has certainly more than won them over now.
The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is widely regarded as the most atmospheric stadium in Spain and the backing Sevilla receive will be key as they target silverware in 2019. They will certainly fancy their chances of winning yet another Europa League and the way things are going it’s very hard to see them dropping many points at home in La Liga. If their away performances are good enough, there’s no reason why they can’t at least keep pace with the Madrid clubs, neither of whom have been particularly impressive.
Betis come back to win at the RCDE
Have a lovely week! 😚👏 pic.twitter.com/Lc8O0tlZeI
— Real Betis Balompié (@RealBetis_en) December 17, 2018
These are fine times to be a football fan in the city of Seville with Real Betis also having made giant leaps forward over the past 18 months under Quique Setien. They were top dogs in the city last season and have already beaten their city rivals, not to mention Barcelona, in La Liga this term. Like Sevilla, they should be real contenders in the Europa League knockout stages and just as impressively for a side new to continental action, they are managing to cope with the demands of playing twice a week pretty well.
Their latest success was a 3-1 win at Espanyol on Sunday. Trailing 1-0 to a Sergio Garcia goal, Betis came roaring back against the out of form Catalans. Giovani Lo Celso continued his hot streak in front of goal with his 8th of the season and 3rd in as many games before Setien’s side netted twice in the final five minutes to seal a hat-trick of wins away to Catalan sides in La Liga this season, having already collected three points from trips to Girona and Barcelona.
The victory was also their third straight league win and moved Betis up to 5th in the standings and right now they will fancy their chances of securing Europa League qualification again. It’s 5 wins out of 6 and just 1 defeat in 11 matches in all competitions for Los Verdiblancos now and with average crowds of well over 40,000, Betis could be heading into a real golden era of attractive football and quite possibly genuine success.
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