Karim Benzema made history at Real Madrid, the battle for the top four continues to heat up and could Iago Aspas have a legitimate claim to be Spain’s player of the year despite playing for lowly Celta? Here are five talking points from the weekend’s La Liga action.
BENZEMA’S REAL REVIVAL
During Cristiano Ronaldo’s latter days at Real Madrid, the whole side was designed to get the best out of the Portuguese forward and Karim Benzema was perhaps the player who suffered the most.
His tireless running and intelligent positional play allowed Ronaldo to flourish, but his own game suffered, with just 16 goals coming in his past two La Liga campaigns.
While there can be no doubt Real have become a lesser side without Ronaldo, Benzema has flourished in his absence and his hat-trick against Athletic Bilbao made it 21 goals for the season.
In addition, the Frenchman has scored the club’s last eight goals – a feat not even Ronaldo, or anyone else in the club’s illustrious history has matched.
BATTLE FOR TOP FOUR HOTS UP
While the top three in La Liga is looking like a closed shop with Barca, Atletico and Real way ahead of the rest, the battle being fought by the chasing pack for fourth continues to hot up.
Sevilla, who started the weekend in fourth, were the big losers as on Sunday they crumbled to a 3-0 defeat at Getafe who leapfrogged them into the final Champions League berth. The Madrid side are now two clear in fourth on 54 points.
Things went from bad to worse for the Andalusians as Valencia’s win at Real Betis means they slipped to sixth by virtue of a lesser head to head record with Marcelino’s side, who have lost just one of their last 22 games in all competitions.
ASPAS AN UNLIKELY CONTENDER FOR TOP GONG
Players slugging it out at the foot of the table are rarely in contention for the top individual prizes, but if Celta Vigo survive this season then Iago Aspas should certainly be in the mix.
This weekend’s win over fellow strugglers Girona was inspired by the former Liverpool flop, who scored one and set up the other in a 2-1 victory that lifted them above the Catalans into 15th.
The Spain forward has 16 goals in La Liga this season, six of which have come in the last four games – all won by Celta.
Of the 35 points accrued by the Galicians this term, they have only taken four during the two six-week injury absences Aspas has had and would be doomed to the drop without him.
HUESCA AND RAYO BLOW IT
As far as relegation six-pointers go, they do not get much bigger than when Huesca travelled to Rayo Vallecano – eight and six points from safety respectively on Saturday.
A victory for either side could have propelled them towards safety and allowed them an unlikely tilt at survival in the final five games of the season.
Unfortunately for them, they played out a bore draw which suited neither side and left them both with an uphill battle if they are to retain their status.
THINGS ARE NEVER DULL WHEN MATEU LAHOZ IN CHARGE
In an age of Twitter accounts dedicated to celebrity referees, there is perhaps no greater showman than Spanish official Antonio Mateu Lahoz.
Regarded by many as the country’s top referee, the flamboyant gesticulator is not afraid to give back to players who talk down to him. Drama seems to follow the 42-year-old and when he took charge of the weekend’s big clash in the race for the top four between Getafe and Sevilla he lived up to his billing.
Two penalties for handball – despite furiously waving away protests for the first only to change his mind after looking at a VAR replay – and a player sent off from either side when other referees would not have been quite as card-happy were among the highlights.