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Five things we learned from La Liga

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Atletico Madrid’s Croatian defender Sime Vrsaljko (front) challenges Real Betis’ Danish defender Riza Durmisi during the Spanish league football match between Real Betis and Atletico Madrid at the Benito Villamarin Stadium in Sevilla on December 10, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / CRISTINA QUICLER

It’s as you were at the top of La Liga after a weekend in which all of the top four won, albeit in contrasting style.

Real Madrid’s return to form was the standout performance as they scored all five goals before half-time in a 5-0 rout of fifth-placed Sevilla.

However, the European champions still trail Barcelona by eight points at the top with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi earning the Catalans a vital 2-0 win at Villarreal.

Valencia and Atletico Madrid continue to separate Barca and Real as they edged out Celta Vigo and Real Betis by a single goal respectively.

Here, AFP Sports looks at five things we learned from La Liga this weekend:

Real rejuvenated
“In terms of goals, yes, but not overall play,” insisted Real boss Zinedine Zidane when asked if he had witnessed his side’s best 45 minutes of the season as Los Blancos tore Sevilla apart in the first-half at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Only the dismissal of Barca in the Spanish Super Cup at the Bernabeu back in August came close as Real rediscovered their mojo to score more than three goals in a league game for the first time this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo doubled his La Liga tally for the campaign with a double to celebrate winning his fifth Ballon d’Or, whilst Nacho, Toni Kroos and Achraf Hakimi also netted.

A return to form is also timely with Real’s next league game against Barca on December 23, by which point they are likely to be 11 points behind in the title race.

Barca host Deportivo la Coruna next weekend, whilst Real are in action at the Club World Cup.

Better call Saul
In the absence of the injured Antoine Griezmann, Saul Niguez was once again the man to provide a big goal for Atletico in a 1-0 win at Betis to keep Los Rojiblancos six points off the top of the table.

The Spanish international has become a specialist in deciding tight games as 15 of his last 18 goals have opened the scoring and two of the other three completed a hat-trick against Italy in the semi-finals of the under-21 European championships.

Saul’s strike also ensured Atletico have now gone a calendar year unbeaten on the road in La Liga.

Snoozefest for Japan
La Liga tried its best to hype Eibar’s visit to Getafe as a clash between the league’s two Japanese stars Gaku Shibasaki and Takashi Inui.

Japan’s flags were dished out to fans, whilst the early kick-off (1200GMT) lent itself for prime time viewing in the Far East.

Unfortunately, the performance of both sides, their Japanese internationals included, failed to match the preparation.

Eibar’s Inui was hauled off after an hour in which picking up a yellow card was his only contribution, whilst Shibasaki was only introduced for the final 15 minutes on his return after three months out injured.

“If I was watching at home I would have turned off the TV,” admitted Eibar captain Dani Garcia.

Messi equals Muller again
Not for the first time an astonishing goalscoring record of German legend Gerd Muller has fallen to Messi.

The Argentine registered his 525th Barca goal on Sunday in just 606 games to draw level with Muller as the top scorer of all-time for one club in Europe’s top five leagues.

A large chunk of those goals came in 2011/2012 when Messi broke Muller’s record for most goals in a season and the calendar year.

Abelardo lifts Alaves
Two games in charge for Abelardo Fernandez at Alaves and the Basques have as many league wins in five days as they had in the previous seven months.

Ibai Gomez’s heroics have lifted last season’s Copa del Rey finalists off the bottom and to within three points of safety.

After netting a hat-trick in the final 18 minutes to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win at Girona last Monday, Gomez netted his fourth goal of the week to open the scoring in a 2-0 win over Las Palmas that leaves the Canary Islanders now at the foot of the table.



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