Madrid, Atleti and Barça suffer, but win
Gareth Bale is on a roll. This is turning out to be his big year at Real Madrid, despite missing so many matches due to injury. Yesterday, in Cristiano's absence, he assumed the role of the team's finisher and resolved the game with a tremendous header, similar to the others he has offered this season. That header helped Madrid take forward a game which they started and ended well, but struggled in between. Modric lifted the team in the final minutes Lucas Vázquez once again made a difference (when hasn't he?). All of that ensured that a Madrid team which had several players out resting could remain in the race - and waiting to see what the other two might do.
Atlético suffered even more than their city neighbours, and like them, they rested a handful of their regulars and found themselves obliged to get a result. Yet again Vietto failed to deliver. Simeone, banished to the stands, had to bring on Koke, Torres and Griezmann in the second half because he could that if he didn't.... Griezmann found the target with a fierce strike, and that was pretty much all that Atlético had to offer. The rest came from Rayo, who had already put in a spirited performance against Madrid - one which they repeated against Atlético. The final minutes were a torrid time for the locals, who had to withstand a tremendous strain just like they had a few days perviously against Bayern. But like Madrid, they too are still in the hunt.
That left all eyes on Barça, who were able to field their star-studded XI, and who had the benefit of a week's rest. But it's not the same Barça of not so long back, nor the same trident. Now, as a team they seemed somewhat bland, indecisive and unsure of themselves. On the half hour the situation turned when Westemann was ordered off but not even that spurred them. They were lucky to be able to open the scoring with a gift courtesy of Adán-Pezzella, but they struggled to kill the game off. Luis Suárez doubled the lead towards the end, after missing the odd chance to do so beforehand. Barça remain at the helm, but they don't look too convincing. There are two matchdays to go and the leafue is far from decided.