The 20th week of the La Liga season ended with the co-leaders, Barcelona and Real Madrid, retaining their places at the top of the table. Both fought to difficult victories over the weekend, while creating separation over third-place Atlético Madrid, who slipped up severely at Eibar.
Real Madrid took first place for a fleeting twenty hours, capitalizing on two Casemiro goals to top Sevilla on Saturday. Fresh off their Supercopa de España trophy, Madrid went up in the 57th minute in a clinical display of finishing by the Brazilian. Sevilla leveled the score seven minutes later behind a beautiful curling strike from Luuk de Jong, but La Liga's fourth-place squad failed to mark Casemiro on a Madrid attack from the flanks in the 69th minute, leaving the defensive midfielder wide open to slot home the winning goal with his head.
Given the rash of injuries suffered by the Bernabeu's finest—who are still missing Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, and Eden Hazard, while also losing Sergio Ramos for the match—a victory over a team with trophy ambitions was a huge result for Zidane's men.
The following day, it was Messi, the league's undisputed top player, showing once again why he is such a crucial player even when his goes isn't a dazzling display of technical prowess. Despite playing at home against a 10-man Granada side that was fighting for promotion in the Segunda División less than a year ago, Barcelona couldn't find the back of the net until the 76th minute. Germán Sánchez Barahona was booked for a second yellow in the 69th, and the short-handed Nazaríes couldn't fend off the Spanish champions. Arturo Vidal served a timely backheel in the box for the on-running Messi, who slotted the ball into the back corner of the net with ease.
The goal gave new Barcelona manager Quique Setién his first victory in his first match with the club, while also setting a record for the highest share of possession in a La Liga game, at 82.6%, since Pep Guardiola's 2011 side kept 83.9% in a match (per Opta). The Blaugrana are tied with Real on points, but have a two-goal differential that could prove crucial if La Liga's titans continue their winning ways.
The fourth title contender, Atlético Madrid, fell behind further after a lackluster display against 16th-place Eibar. Atleti lost 2-0, conceding both early and late in the match but hardly making the most of their possession dominance. Esteban Burgos put the hosts up 1-0 after a corner was flicked to the far post for the Argentine to easily put away. Their second came on another corner, when an Atleti clearance only made it as far as Edu Expósito at the edge of the box, who fired home from distance to put the match away.
La Liga's biggest surprise, Getafe, maintained their pace for European competition next season with a 3-0 win over relegation zone occupants Leganes. Valencia, meanwhile, took a shuddering 4-1 defeat at the hands of Mallorca as Los Che drop out of a European place and Mallorca move two points shy of the relegation threat.
La Liga Week 20 Scores
Leganes 0-3 Getafe
Levante 0-1 Alaves
Real Madrid 2-1 Sevilla
Osasuna 0-0 Real Valladolid
Eibar 2-0 Atletico Madrid
Mallorca 4-1 Valencia
Real Betis 3-0 Real Sociedad
Villarreal 1-2 Espanyol
Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Celta Vigo
Barcelona 1-0 Granada