Barcelona Increases the Gap Ahead of Real Madrid

Round 18 of LaLiga has come to a close and with it, we have a new leader in Barcelona. Well, technically, Barcelona were already leading the league due to better goal difference previous round, but with Real Madrid’s disappointing draw against Ath Bilbao and Barcelona’s dominant win against Alaves, the gap between the two LaLiga giants has increased to two points. Now let’s take a look at what happened in round 18.

Barcelona flex their muscles against Alaves

Barcelona entered round 18 of LaLiga hungry for points after dropping the ball in round 17 when they drew with Real Madrid (0:0) at Camp Nou. They knew well they need to step up their game to get themselves in a lead and with Alaves as their next opponents, Messi and co. fancied their chances to claim all three points.

Lionel Messi #10 of Barcelona
BARCELONA, SPAIN – December 21: Lionel Messi #10 of Barcelona in action during the Barcelona V Alaves, La Liga regular season match at Estadio Camp Nou on December 21st 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Barcelona got off to a flying start with Griezmann scoring the game opener in 14th minute with Vidal adding another one in the final minute of the first half to put Barcelona two goals up ahead of the second half. Barcelona were clearly the superior side in the first half, having produced four goal attempts and two shots on goal with 74% ball possession as compared to Alaves, who produced one goal attempt and no shots on goal with 26% ball possession. Despite playing better, however, Barcelona left a lot to be desired with only two shots on goal.

The second half was much closer in terms of what the two sides showed. Alaves managed to shoot the ball 3/4 with 37% ball possession, while Barcelona put up four goal attempts and two shots on goal with 63% ball possession. With their resurge in form Alaves scored their first goal in 56th minute, and it looked like they just might catch up, however, Messi had other plans as he scored Barcelona’s third goal in 69th minute to get his team two goals up. Alaves pushed for another but unfortunately conceded their fourth in 75th minute when Suarez converted the penalty. The match ended with a commanding win for Barcelona (4-1), who did not look as solid as many would have expected, yet still managed to walk away victorious.

Real Madrid drop the ball against Ath Bilbao

Real Madrid watched as Barcelona defeated Alaves on Saturday, and now it was time for Zidane’s men to deliver. Their next opponent was Ath Bilbao who arrived at Santiago Bernabéu hungry for blood as they were already looking up to securing a top-five spot in the league, but they were met with resistant Real Madrid, who got off to a flying start and pressured the visitors from minute one.

MADRID, SPAIN – DECEMBER 22: Luka Jovic of Real Madrid competes for the ball with Unai Nunez of Athletic Club during the Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Athletic Club at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 22, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Real Madrid produced 10 goal attempts and five shots on goal with 70% ball possession throughout the opening 45 minutes, while Ath Bilbao struggled with their shooting (2/4) and holding the ball at their feet (30% ball possession). Despite a far superior performance from the Galacticos, no goals were scored in the first half, meaning the two sides entered the second half tied at 0:0.

Real Madrid kept on the pressure with 68% ball possession and 3/10 shooting throughout the second half while keeping the visitors at 32% ball possession and preventing them from shooting the ball at their goal (0/4). Despite another dominant performance, Real Madrid failed to find their way to Ath Biblao’s net. Suffice to say, the visitors failed to do some serious damage to Real Madrid as well, meaning the two sides had to settle for a stalemate. That, based on the performance of the two sides surely was more to the linking of Ath Bilbao who secured a very important point, while Real Madrid lost two crucial points in their title race against Barcelona.

Atletico Madrid win their second in a row

While the two LaLiga giants had a completely opposite experience last round, Atletico Madrid managed to secure an important win against Betis (2:1) and while it was not a convincing win, Atleti can still be happy to enter the next round with 32 points next to their name, which sits them seven points adrift of Barcelona and five points short of Real Madrid. Whether Atletico will manage to bounce back from their poor start of the season and contest the title is at this point all dependent on how Real Madrid and Barcelona will perform. If Atletico manage to keep their fire going and the two LaLiga favourites drop in form, there is a chance, and based on how shaky 2019/20 season of LaLiga seems, there is a serious possibility for Atletico to make waves.

la liga table round 18

With that, Barcelona (12-3-3) reclaimed their throne as LaLiga leaders and are now two points ahead of Real Madrid (10-7-1). In third place, we have Sevilla (10-4-4), who won their round 18 bout with Mallorca (2:0) and look like serious contenders for a solid finish. Atletico Madrid (8-8-2) are fourth, two points adrift of Sevilla, while Real Sociedad (9-4-5) climbed up to the fifth place where they sit with 31 points. Getafe (8-6-4) dropped the ball last round as they lost to Villarreal (0:1) and are now sixth with 30 points. Ath Bilbao (7-7-4) sit at seventh place, tied with Valencia (7-7-4), both of which have 28 points to their name.

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