March 18, 2019 / 11:31 AM / a month ago

Five talking points from the weekend in La Liga

BARCELONA (Reuters) - La Liga leaders Barcelona moved 10 points clear with a 4-1 win at Real Betis on Sunday after second place Atletico Madrid slipped up at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday in a 2-0 defeat.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Betis v FC Barcelona - Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville, Spain - March 17, 2019 Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their fourth goal to complete his hat-trick REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

Here are five talking points from the weekend in La Liga.

BETIS FANS HAIL MESSI

Barcelona thrashed Betis 4-1 at the Benito Villamarin with Lionel Messi scoring the 33rd La Liga hat-trick of his career.

The Argentine star executed a perfect free kick, finished a slick move and then netted an audacious lob to fire Barca one step closer to the title.

After his third goal, Real Betis fans chanted his name and applauded him, some even bowing to the No. 10.

Betis coach Quique Setien admired the way his team’s fans reacted.

“I really like the fact that our supporters showed their appreciation for a great player, today he really made us suffer,” Setien said.

“It’s only fair and it’s right to recognise this, our fans behaved in an extraordinary way and I’m very proud of them.”

LIKE ZIDANE NEVER LEFT

Nine months after he left, Zinedine Zidane is back at Real Madrid and, with a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday, it seems like nothing has changed.

The French coach picked players who were left out by his predecessor Santiago Solari, including Keylor Navas, Isco, Marcelo and Gareth Bale.

All four of those had an impressive impact as Madrid eased past Celta.

Goalkeeper Navas made some impressive saves, Isco broke the deadlock and Marcelo set up Bale for the second goal.

Madrid have little to play for other than pride between now and the end of the season, but individual players can stake their claims to be part of Zidane’s new project.

SEVILLA END AWAY DAY MISERY

In Spain there is not a big ‘away day’ culture, although Sevilla are one of the few clubs who regularly take supporters on the road.

They have often been left disappointed as the last time Sevilla won away from their Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in La Liga was in September. But they were able to end a tumultuous week with a 1-0 victory at Espanyol on Sunday.

Following Europa League elimination coach Pablo Machin was sacked on Friday, with Joaquin Caparros taking control of the club for the third time, on a temporary basis.

Monchi was reappointed as sporting director on Sunday and he was able to celebrate as Wissam Ben Yedder ended a run of 11 winless matches away in the top flight.

ATLETICO CRASH AND BURN

It has been a miserable week for Atletico Madrid.

Ousted from the Champions League by their nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo, formerly of Real Madrid, Atletico were still smarting as they came into the weekend.

That 3-0 defeat by Juventus was demoralising and it showed as they suffered at the San Mames against an energetic Athletic Bilbao side.

Atletico suffered a 2-0 defeat which, after Barca’s win on Sunday, leaves them 10 points adrift in the title race with 10 matches remaining.

The only good news at the club came from the women’s game, who sold out the Wanda Metropolitano for a world record attendance, but they actually lost that too, a 2-0 defeat by Barcelona.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Celta Vigo - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - March 16, 2019 Real Madrid's Karim Benzema is embraced by coach Zinedine Zidane after being substituted off REUTERS/Susana Vera

RELEGATION BATTLE TAKES SHAPE

The bottom three all lost this weekend, while Real Valladolid and Villarreal, 16th and 17th respectively, both secured important victories.

There is now a four point gap between Villarreal and 18th place Celta Vigo, who lost at Madrid.

Rayo, who lost at Villarreal, are in an abysmal run of seven consecutive defeats, while with one win in five, Huesca look stranded at the bottom, seven points away from safety.

Editing by Christian Radnedge

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