Rival watch: No changes at the top of the table

Rival watch: No changes at the top of the table

FC Barcelona's main rivals in La Liga were all victorious in Week 19, leaving the top four slots in the standings unaltered Coming opponents Espanyol and Athletic Club both fell to frustrating road defeats

Although FC Barcelona — by beating Granada 4–0 at Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon — did its part to ratchet up the pressure on the other top teams in La Liga, none of them seemed to flinch, as the first four in the table all won fairly easily in Week 19 action.

Later on Saturday evening, third-place Real Madrid played hosts to middle-of-the-table Deportivo La Coruña and scored an easy 5–0 victory in their first game under newly hired manager Zinedine Zidane. Gareth Bale's hat-trick was sandwiched by Karim Benzema's double, with the final goal coming in second half injury time.

In the early game on Sunday, fourth-place Villarreal got a pair of goals from Cédric Bakambu, one in each half, to defeat La Liga laggards Sporting Gijón at El Madrigal. The victory for Villarreal allows them to keep pace with the top guns and tighten their grip on the final slot for next year's UEFA Champions League.

The final game of Week 19 came on a soggy Sunday night in Balaídos and saw leaders Atlético Madrid triumph in a marquee matchup at fifth-place Celta Vigo to stay ahead of defending champs FC Barcelona for at least another week. Antoine Griezmann and Carrasco both notched second half goals amid a pummelling rain in Galicia.

FC Barcelona, despite remaining in second place, have an all-important game in hand. The Catalans' Week 16 match at Sporting — which was originally set for December — was postponed until mid-February due to a scheduling conflict stemming from Barça's participation in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.

Next up for FCB

In other league action, Espanyol, which host Barça in Cornellà on Wednesday night in the second leg of the Copa del Rey last 16, fell at Eibar by a score of 2–1. Joan Jordán netted the loan goal for FCB's cross-town rivals. Espanyol are currently in 13th place.

Finally, FC Barcelona's next opponents in La Liga, Athletic Bilbao, were also dealt a stinging road defeat over the weekend, falling at Sevilla, 2–0. Both goals came from the foot of Kevin Gameiro, the second on a penalty kick in minute 59. Athletic Club, which had been sixth in the table before Week 19 started, were leapfrogged by both Eibar (now sixth) and Sevilla (now seventh), and dropped two slots back to number eight.

Results — La Liga — Week 19

Sat 9 January

BARÇA 4–0 Granada
Getafe 10 Real Betis
Sevilla 2 0 Athletic Bilbao
Real Madrid 50 Deportivo
Levante 21 Rayo Vallecano

Sun 10 January

Villarreal 2 0 Sporting Gijón
Real Sociedad 20 Valencia
Eibar 21 Espanyol
Las Palmas 1 1 Málaga
Celta Vigo 02 Atlético Madrid

 [[BOTOVERMELL::LA LIGA TABLE++::http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/spanish-league::HOR::::NO-TRACKING::::::]]

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