MADRID - Matchday 16 of La Liga didn't produce any major surprises as Barcenola and Real Madrid both enjoyed relatively easy wins, while Atletico Madrid failed to score yet again and Osasuna's strength at home made life difficult for Sevilla. Here are a few things we learned this weekend in Spain.
1. Big two starting to pull clear
Sevilla's Spanish forward Munir El Haddadi (C) applauds to supporters at the end of the Spanish league football match between CA Osasuna and Sevilla FC at El Sadar stadium in Pamplona on Dec 8, 2019. (ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)
FC Barcelona and Real Madrid both won their games this weekend, while Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad were all held away from home.
Sevilla are currently third in the table, three points behind Barca and Madrid, who have both played a game less, although they are yet to play each other.
The fact is that after a start to the campaign which saw the top 10 teams separated by just a handful of points, things are starting to look increasingly familiar, as the economic power and the deeper squads of the big two begin to make themselves felt.
2. Barca impress but could give Real Madrid hope
Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal with Antoine Griezmann, centre and Luis Suarez during a Champions League soccer match Group F between Barcelona and Dortmund at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Nov 27, 2019. (JOAN MONFORT / AP PHOTO)
Lionel Messi scored the 35th hat-trick of his career and Barcelona produced some stunning attacking football as they beat Mallorca 5-2 on Saturday, just 11 days before they play Real Madrid in 'El Clasico' in the Camp Nou.
Messi, Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets were outstanding in attack and midfield, but Mallorca did give Barca some problems in defense, scoring with their first two attacks, with only a great save from Marc Andre Ter Stegen stopping their third shot from making it 4-3.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will likely look at the result and think that although Barca will probably score against his side, his men will also fashion chances of their own, with Karim Benzema in devastating form.
3. A word in favor of Celades
It's 16 games in all competitions since former Spain Under-21 coach Albert Celades was named as the surprise replacement for Marcelino Garcia Toral, who fell out with the Valencia owners over the club's transfer dealings.
Valencia's Spanish coach Albert Celades looks on before the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Valencia CF and Chelsea FC at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on Nov 27, 2019. (JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)
Celades began with a heavy defeat away to Barcelona, but his team have lost just three times since then, and Saturday showed he has maintained the personality that Marcelino imposed on the side, with two consecutive wins leaving Valencia on the verge of a place in Europe, and youngster Ferran Torres especially impressive.
Tuesday sees Valencia travel to play Ajax in the Champions League for a game that will decide their European fate this season, but with the fighting spirit they have shown, nobody can write off a surprise in the Amsterdam Arena.
4. Joaquin shows class doesn't age
Joaquin Sanchez may be 38-years old and is likely to retire at the end of the current season, but the Real Betis winger rolled back the years with a fantastic display in his side's 3-2 win at home to Athletic Bilbao.
Joaquin's pace was too much for the visitors' defense and he became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in La Liga, netting three times in the first 20 minutes of their game in the Benito Villamarin stadium.
Were it not for two saves from Unai Simon, Joaquin could have scored five, and his current form suggests that he may do well to postpone his retirement for another year.
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