[[DES_1]]The upshot of FC Barcelona’s 2-2 draw with Deportivo La Coruña on Saturday is that Atlético Madrid have been able to match the Catalans on 35 points at the summit of la Liga. Barça do however hold onto top spot by virtue of a considerably superior goal difference. But Real Madrid failed to seize the same opportunity to make up lost ground, and after defeat at Villarreal are now five points adrift of the pace-setting duo.
Atlético were the only one of the top three to win this weekend, but they had to come from behind to do it. A plucky Athletic Bilbao took a 1-0 lead at the Vicente Calderón through Aymeric Laporte from a 17th minute corner. Saul Niguez headed an equaliser just before the interval and French international Antoine Griezmann fired home a spectacular winner in the second half. Atlético travel to Málaga next weekend, where they’ll have the chance to become outright leaders, as Barça’s game with Sporting has been postponed due to the Club World Cup.
Real Madrid were a goal down at Villarreal after just eight minutes when Roberto Soldado converted but Rafa Benitez’s side managed to survive further onslaught before finally getting into their game after the break. But despite twenty shots on goal and Cristiano Ronaldo hitting the post, they could find no way back into it, and there are now just three points between them and their victors.
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Celta Vigo, who beat Espanyol 1-0 at the weekend, lie between them in fourth place.
FC Barcelona’s next Liga opponents, Real Betis, suffered 1-0 defeat at Las Palmas after substitute Willian José scored the only goal in the second minute of injury time. While Barça are in Japan, the Andalusians have the second leg of a cup tie with Sporting Gijón (after winning the first leg 2-0) and the city derby with Sevilla.
Barça’s Champions League second round opponents Arsenal moved to the top of the Premiership table with a 2-0 win at now bottom-placed Aston Villa, although the surprise package in England this year, Leicester City, can regain their lead if they beat Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on Monday night. Olivier Giroud put the Gunners ahead with an 8th minute penalty, and Welsh international Aaron Ramsey added another shortly before the break. The game also saw Arsenal keeper Petr Cech make a bit of history by keeping his 169th clean sheet, thus equalling the Premier League record held by David James.