Lionel Messi yet again demonstrated his virtuoso skills at free-kick taking as he scored a hat-trick in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Celta Vigo to keep the Catalans top, but the poor form of strike partner Antoine Griezmann is still causing concern.
Messi did not play a single pass to his 120-million-euro ($132 million) teammate in the first half, and when he did finally release him for a one-on-one opportunity after the interval, the Frenchman fired straight at the keeper.
Griezmann made 21 passes before he was substituted for Luis Suarez in the 73rd minute, less than half the number fellow forward Ousmane Dembele produced in the second period, which has cast doubt over his suitability to Barca’s heavy passing game.
Eden Hazard did not get on the score-sheet in Real Madrid’s 4-0 rout of Eibar but this was the game in which he finally looked like the player he was at Chelsea where his sparking displays convinced Real to pay 100 million euros on him.
“He was incredible in the first half,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.
Compatriot Thibaut Courtois added: “He has played well in other games but today he played out of his skin.”
Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui has endured his fair share of harrowing experiences as a coach, having been sacked by Spain on the eve of the World Cup and then thrown out the door by Real Madrid four months after being given the job.
Things seem to be working out for him in the south of Spain though, and he finally got a big-game victory under his belt as his Sevilla side emerged 2-1 winners at fierce local rivals Real Betis on Sunday to move up to fourth in the standings.
Lopetegui is normally one for hiding his emotions but he could not contain himself when the full-time whistle sounded in the Seville derby, punching the air with both fists.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Pravin Char