Almeria

Sweet assists from sub Suarez send Neymar, Barca past Almeria (video)

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Luis Enrique pushed the right buttons to pull Barcelona from its La Liga doldrums, using some high-profile substitutes to spur the Blaugranas to a come-from-behind 2-1 win against lowly Almeria.

Coming off losses to Real Madrid and Celta Vigo in league play after starting the season 8-0 without conceding a single goal, Enrique left the following names on the bench against Almeria: Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Neymar, Xavi, Dani Alves.

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And while a few of those names weren’t surprising, it was Suarez and Neymar who teamed up — along with Jordi Alba — to spring the comeback after Congolese 22-year-old attacker Thievy Bifouma put Almeria ahead in the 37th minute.

Neymar and Suarez entered for Muni El Haddadi and Pedro, respectively, at halftime and turned the 1-0 Almeria lead on its head.

First Suarez passed a square ball to Neymar to tap home in the 73rd minute before giving a through ball for Alba to finish in the 82nd.

Barca briefly leapt atop the table before Real Madrid dispatched Rayo Vallecano 5-1 on goals from Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Los Merengues are again two points ahead of their Catalan rivals.

Relegation and La Liga: which teams could drop on Sunday?

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Anyone that loves a relegation dogfight should tune in to La Liga today. On the final match day of Spain’s top division, five different teams are battling to avoid the drop. Each of the four games involving the bottom six sides are set to kick off at 12 noon ET.

Let’s take a look at which clubs could spend next season in the second division. Remember, La Liga uses head-to-head rather than goal difference as a tie-breaker when teams are even on points…which makes this a bit hairy:

Real Betis (20th)
It’s over for the Andalusian side, who, with just 25 points and a -41 goal difference, lost hope some weeks ago. Betis serve as perhaps another warning for smaller clubs entering Europa League that maybe, just maybe, that European experience isn’t worth the fight. Still, Betis won’t take it easy on Osasuna – even with nothing to play for, they beat 19th placed Valladolid last week.

Real Valladolid (19th)
First, in order to save themselves, Valladolid must beat Granada. If that happens, they’ll have 39 points. If Osasuna lose to Betis, Valladolid are safe. If Osasuna win, that could create a potential tie-breaker with Valladolid, Osasuna, Almeria and Getafe all on 39 points. The permutations of that outcome could give anyone a headache. If it’s just Osasuna and Valladolid that finish with 39, however, Valladolid will be relegated, as Osasuna have the better head-to-head.
In summary: if you’re a Valladolid fan, root for Betis and Vallecano – that should put Valladolid into safety.

Osasuna (18th)
A win puts Osasuna on 39 points. That’s a must. But the fact that Granada and Valladolid play each other doesn’t do Osasuna any favors. If Granada, Getafe and Almeria all win, Osasuna are relegated. If there’s another tie at 39 points, again, we’ve got another headache situation. But Osasuna will be cheering on Valladolid, as if they’re even on points, Osasuna stay safe.

Granada (17th)
Beating Valladolid makes Granada safe, full stop. If Granada lose, they’re down, full stop. If the match finishes in a draw, and Osasuna win, it gets more complicated. If both Getafe and Almeria lose, then Granada are down.

Getafe (16th)
Getafe are three points above the drop, but that doesn’t make them safe. Obviously, if get even a point at Rayo, they’re good – it’s La Liga for them next season. But if, despite having nothing to play for, Rayo decide to beat up on Getafe, they could be in danger. If the azulones lose, Osasuna wins and Valldolid and Granada ends in a tie, Getafe are down.

Almeria (15th)
Good news for Almeria – Athletic Bilbao are safe in the final Champions League place, and have no reason to fight for all three points. A draw is enough to keep Almeria safe. In fact, Almeria are almost certain to remain in La Liga. Only if Granada win, Getafe don’t lose and Osasuna win is there a chance that Almeria go down.

PS – if you’re fluent in Spanish, give this AS article a glance. You’ll see just how complicated tonight’s match outcomes might be.

Fixtures

Almeria vs. Athletic Bilbao
Osasuna vs. Real Betis
Rayo Vallecano vs. Getafe
Real Valladolid vs. Granada

Spain roundup: Barca, Atletico, Real Madrid all win; Osasuna rises

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It was a weekend for the big boys, and Atletico Madrid‘s hopes for a La Liga title moved even closer after Rudi Garcia’s 14th minute tally pushed the hosts by Villarreal to remain atop the table with 79 points, one more than No. 2 Barcelona.

Speaking of Barca, have you heard of this Lionel Messi fellow? Presumed dead (or at least “just great”) in December, the 26-year-old bagged another two goals as the hosts all-but-condemned Real Betis to the drop. His 15th penalty pen was met by an 86th minute goal to complete the brace. It gives him 10 goals in his last five La Liga matches, which is pretty decent if you’re looking for adjectives.

Real Madrid walked into Anoeta like they owned the place, beating Real Sociedad 4-0 behind goals from four different players. It was 1-0 at half before Gareth Bale, Pepe and Álvaro Morata netted in the second half to complete the win. Sociedad remains six points back of No. 4 Athletic Bilbao, which plays Monday, and three back of No. 5 Sevilla.

Easing concerns over UEFA Champions League second legs, each Top Three club faces a Bottom Six club next week, though only Real Madrid is home. In UCL, Real is on the road with a 3-0 lead on Borussia Dortmund, while Barca heads to Atleti tied at one.

There was an absolutely massive relegation six-pointer at Almeria, where a 32nd minute goal from Arribas (above) would stand as the match-winner as Osasuna picked up an unlikely three points on the road to leap out of the relegation zone, passing the hosts by those three points.

Elsewhere

  • Rayo Vallecano 3-0 Celta Vigo — Bueno lived up to his name with a second-half brace that, upon completion, see teams five points clear of the relegation zone.
  • Valladolid 0-0 Valencia — Scoreless draw does little for the visitors’ hopes for Europe, but the home team will be happy with the point that moves them out of the drop on goal differential.
  • Sevilla 4-1 Espanyol — Kevin Gameiro has his A-game in order, with a brace in the home side’s onslaught of the “other” Barcelona side.
  • Malaga 4-1 Granada— The visitors slipped back toward the drop zone by going down 4-0 before pulling one back in the 78th minute to save a little face in goal differential, which could become crucial.
  • Elche 1-0 Getafe – Richmond Boakye’s 90th minute winner dramatically pulled the home team four points ahead of the visitors, who slipped into the final drop slot.
  • Levante vs. Athletic – Monday

 

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlético Madrid 32 25 4 3 70 22 48 14-3-0 11-1-3 79
Barcelona 32 25 3 4 92 26 66 15-0-1 10-3-3 78
Real Madrid 32 24 4 4 90 32 58 13-0-2 11-4-2 76
Athletic 31 16 8 7 53 34 19 11-3-2 5-5-5 56
Sevilla 32 15 8 9 59 47 12 9-3-4 6-5-5 53
Real Sociedad 32 14 8 10 54 48 6 10-3-3 4-5-7 50
Villarreal 32 14 7 11 51 38 13 7-6-3 7-1-8 49
Valencia 32 11 8 13 44 45 -1 8-3-5 3-5-8 41
Levante 31 10 10 11 29 38 -9 5-5-5 5-5-6 40
Espanyol 32 11 7 14 35 40 -5 7-3-6 4-4-8 40
Málaga 32 10 8 14 35 40 -5 6-2-8 4-6-6 38
Rayo Vallecano 32 11 3 18 37 68 -31 7-0-9 4-3-9 36
Celta Vigo 32 10 6 16 34 47 -13 4-6-6 6-0-10 36
Elche 32 8 11 13 26 42 -16 6-6-5 2-5-8 35
Granada 32 10 4 18 29 46 -17 6-1-9 4-3-9 34
Osasuna 32 9 6 17 28 53 -25 5-3-7 4-3-10 33
Valladolid 32 6 13 13 32 50 -18 5-8-3 1-5-10 31
Getafe 32 8 7 17 29 49 -20 4-6-6 4-1-11 31
Almería 32 8 6 18 34 60 -26 5-5-6 3-1-12 30
Betis 32 5 7 20 28 64 -36 4-3-9 1-4-11 22

Spain Roundup: Barca cruises to re-congest top of table after Madrid derby draw

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It was another match day to remember in Spain, as two La Liga giants battled to a thrilling Madrid derby draw that enabled Barcelona to leap back into second place.

In a match that saw 26 shots, one of the first went into the goal as Karim Benzema scored for Real Madrid in the third minute and threatened to make the affair more business as usual. Atletico won on the road when the two clubs matched up in September but Real countered two Copa Del Ray wins that added up to a 5-0 final score.

But the home club countered with style, adding goals from Koke and Gabi Fernandez before the end of the first half and unwittingly setting the stage for the heroics of a player you may have heard of: Cristiano Ronaldo, who latched onto a loose ball and equalized in the 82nd minute.

The 2-2 draw maintained Real Madrid’s three-point lead over Atletico and opened the door for Barcelona to climb to within a point of the table leaders, which they did with a stylish 4-1 win over Almeria.

Nearly 59,000 were at Camp Nou to watch Barca jump out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Alexis Sanchez and Lionel Messi, the latter of whom nearly added an acrobatic header that shot wide of the goal. Angel Trujillo struck for Almeria about three minutes after the Messi goal, as the Blaugrana appeared a bit sloppy after building the early lead.

It was the man rumored for NYCFC in 2015 that gave Barca a two-goal cushion in the 83rd minute, as Carles Puyol finished a headed Messi rebound that hit the bar. Xavi made it four in the 89th minute.

Aside from the obvious advantage Real Madrid has — a one-point lead on Barca and three on Atletico — Barcelona has the added difficulty of having to face both clubs in the race, while Real and Atletico are done with the derby for the season.

Elsewhere

  • Bilbao 4-0 Granada – Friday night saw Bilbao stay on track for Champions League soccer thanks to an Aritz Aduriz hat trick, while Granada sits 15th.
  • Malaga 1-1 Valladolid – Roque Santa Cruz’s early goal was enough to keep the hosts from giving up full points in this relegation six-pointer, while Daniel Larsson was the equalizing hero for the visitors.
  • Levante 2-0 Osasuna – Early tallies from Papakouli Diop and Ruben Garcia give the hosts a comfortable lead before a 61st minute red card to Victor Casadesus livened things up. Levante sits eighth, with Osasuna in 12th.
  • Getafe 0-0 Espanyol – Getafe now four points ahead of the drop zone, while Espanyol’s dreams of the Europa League seem less realistic.
  • Elche 1-0 Celta Vigo  – 21-year-old Carles Gil plays the hero for the home team, as the visitors are now just one point ahead of No. 13 Elche after the loss.
  • Vallecano 1-0 Valencia – Joaquin Larrivey scored the winner about a half-hour from the finish to provide a huge upset for the home team, who can now see safety from its tie for 18th place.
  • Sevilla 1-0 Real Sociedad — Long-rumored for England, Kevin Gameiro played the hero off the bench for Sevilla with a second-half strike, as the home side pulls to within five of the visitors.
  • Villarreal 1-1 Real Betis — The home team lost its lead after a red card to Uche Ikechuwku open the door for heroics from Ruben Castro, who headed Betis into just its third point on the road this season. They are still 11 points away from sniffing safety.

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Real Madrid 26 20 4 2 73 26 47 11-0-1 9-4-1 64
Barcelona 26 20 3 3 74 21 53 12-0-1 8-3-2 63
Atlético Madrid 26 19 4 3 61 21 40 11-3-0 8-1-3 61
Athletic 26 15 5 6 49 30 19 10-3-1 5-2-5 50
Villarreal 26 13 5 8 47 31 16 7-4-3 6-1-5 44
Real Sociedad 26 12 7 7 46 36 10 8-3-1 4-4-6 43
Sevilla 26 10 8 8 44 41 3 6-3-4 4-5-4 38
Levante 26 9 9 8 26 31 -5 5-5-3 4-4-5 36
Valencia 26 10 5 11 38 37 1 7-2-4 3-3-7 35
Espanyol 26 9 6 11 29 32 -3 6-2-5 3-4-6 33
Celta Vigo 26 8 6 12 32 37 -5 3-6-4 5-0-8 30
Osasuna 26 8 5 13 24 39 -15 5-2-5 3-3-8 29
Elche 26 7 8 11 23 37 -14 5-4-5 2-4-6 29
Granada 26 8 3 15 22 36 -14 4-1-8 4-2-7 27
Getafe 26 7 6 13 23 40 -17 4-5-5 3-1-8 27
Málaga 26 6 8 12 24 35 -11 5-2-6 1-6-6 26
Almería 26 7 5 14 25 46 -21 4-4-4 3-1-10 26
Valladolid 26 4 11 11 28 44 -16 3-6-3 1-5-8 23
Rayo Vallecano 26 7 2 17 26 59 -33 4-0-9 3-2-8 23
Betis 26 3 6 17 21 56 -35 3-3-7 0-3-10 15