La Liga Review looks back at all of this weekend's Primera Liga action after Real Madrid's 3-1 win over Sevilla sees them go six points clear at the top of the Spanish league and Barcelona slip down in to third place behind Villarreal...
After Barcelona failed to beat Betis on Saturday, and pile the pressure on Madrid, Schuster’s side visibly relished their relative freedom to extend their lead at the top of the table, without their fierce rivals breathing down their necks.
Gabi Heinze, Raul and Gonzalo Higuain scored the goals for Madrid while Sevilla replied through Frederic Kanoute's first-half equaliser.
It took just seven minutes for Madrid to take the lead and for the first time in a long while, the home side looked, and played, like champions.
Sevilla barely had a look in and the home side should , and could, have scored even more goals in a win that will serve as a huge confidence boost following last weeks defeat to Valencia. For so long this season really has looked like the league that nobody wanted to win: so unconvincing have Spain’s two biggest club’s appeared as both of them never failed to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
However, if Madrid’s display on Sunday, and Barcelona’s on Saturday, are a signal of both clubs’ intent between now and the end of the season then, Ladies and Gentleman, we may finally have a winner.
Real Betis came from behind to finish 3-2 winners over FC Barcelona in Seville on Saturday.
The home side came from 2-0 down to leave Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard feeling 'ashamed' of a 3-2 defeat that could prove decisive in the race for the La Liga title. Read the full report here.
Villareal moved up in to second place in La Liga following their 3-0 home win over fellow Champions League hopefuls Atletico Madrid.
Santi Cazorla gave the home side the lead on 40 minutes and Nihat Kahveci sealed the win with goals either side of the break. The win, Villarreal’s fourth in succession, leaves Pellegrini’s side nine points above fourth placed Atletico and makes the Yellow Submarines an increasingly safe bet for a Champions League berth .
However, while Pellegrini himself dare not mention it, his side also have a realistic chance of claiming the La Liga title: sandwiched between a faltering Barcelona and an inconsistent Real Madrid.
Pellegrini, at least publicly, refuses to get carried away, saying: "The team have shown their maturity. We have to defend what we have obtained. With Barcelona's defeat, we have got ourselves to get into second place and now we have to defend that position.”
The Villarreal coach added: “It is controlled joy, we have second place in the table, but there is still a lot of the season remaining."
Atletico Madrid coach Javier Aguirre conceded that the result now leaves Atletico with slightly more modest ambitions for the remainder of the season. The Mexican said: “Villarreal are in the fight for the title and are a legitimate candidate due to the points that they have. We must focus on the final straight, where we have eight 'finals' left. We have spent 30 matches fighting for a Champions League place and it is going to be exciting right up until the end of the season. We will keep battling until the final moment."
Levante’s 2-1 defeat to Almeria leaves the Valencia based club teetering on the verge of relegation.
This was Levante’s fourth consecutive defeat, their 21st of the season, and with just 19 points the Primera Liga newcomers must win seven of their remaining 8 games if they are to avoid going straight back down.
Almeria, in contrast, have looked perfectly at home in Spain’s top flight since gaining promotion last season. Goals from Fernando Soriano and Felipe Melo gave Unai Emery’s side a two-goal lead at half time and the Andalucians held on, in spite of Vicente Iborra’s late consolation goal, to secure survival in the Primera Liga having attained the all important 42 points necessary to avoid relegation.
Osasuna climbed four points away from the drop zone following a much needed 2-0 victory against in-form Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
Miguel Flano scored the first goal for Osasuna just before the break, just minutes after Getafe defender Cosmin Contra was sent off for a second bookable offence.
A second-half penalty, scored by Francisco Punal, secured the win for the visiting side that moves them up in to 14th and within two points of 12th placed Getafe on 39 points.
Real Valladolid move up in to 15th place after they recorded vital 2-1 win over fellow relegation candidates Real Zaragoza on Sunday afternoon.
Alberto Zapater gave Zaragoza the lead on 29 minutes, but second half goals from Victor Fernandez (pen) and Joseba Llorente snatched all three valuable points for Valladolid. Defeat leaves Zaragoza in 17th place with only a superior goal difference over Recreativo keeping them out of the drop zone. Zaragoza are not, as they say, too good to go down.
Racing Santander’s remarkable season continues with a 3-0 away win over Espanyol at Montjuic.
The defeat leaves Espanyol in seventh place, but their European ambitions are rapidly slipping from their grasp. Racing , on the other hand, can really start to believe that Champions League football is a possibility for next season.
Oscar Serrano and Pedro Munitis scored in the first half and Ivan Bolado secured the win and heaped more misery upon the home side in the 90th minute of the match.
The win moves Racing up in to fifth place, level on points with fourth placed Atletico: a fantastic achievement for a side widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season and the work of the coach, Marcelino has not gone unnoticed by some of Spain’s bigger clubs.
Espanyol coach, Ernesto Valverde, on the other hand is having a miserable time of late and this, his eighth defeat in ten matches will not have helped to ease the pressure.
Real Mallorca beat Valencia 3-0 at the Mestalla to move above their hosts in to ninth place in the La Liga table.
Daniel Guiza opened the scoring after 11 minutes from the edge of the penalty area, before Ivan Ramis scored a spectacular 25-yard free kick to make it 2-0 for the Balearic islanders within 20 minutes. Guiza then headed in his second of the night, his 17th of the season, with 10 minutes of the second half played, to seal the win.
The Mestalla crowd were quick to vent their frustrations and, just a week after beating Real Madrid, Koeman will once again be feeling the heat.
Aritz Aduriz's scored a late goal to salvage a point for Athletic Bilbao in their 1-1 draw at struggling Recreativo Huelva.
Fernando Amorebieta’s own goal appeared to have been enough to keep Recre out of the bottom three, but Bilbao substitute Aduriz grabbed the equaliser with just eight minutes remaining.
The draw leaves Athletic in tenth place on 40 points, just two short of Primera Liga safety, while Recre find themselves mired in the bottom three with just 8 games left to play.
Deportivo La Coruna were 3-1 winners at home to Murcia on Sunday, coming from behind after conceding in the fourth minute of the match.
Quique De Lucas' header for Murcia stunned the home crowd who started the match just two points above the drop zone. However, the Depor side responded well and Xisco equalised in the 23rd minute. He then went on to secure hero status by scoring twice in three minutes midway through the second half to clinch victory for the Galicians. The win means Depor remain 15th in the Primera Liga table, but at least they now have four points sperating them from the drop.
Murcia have lost on all of their seven visits to the Riazor and certain to face relegation at the end of the season: they are currently second from bottom, seven points from safety.