Sevilla go level with leaders Real after victory
No let-up from Sevilla, who are piling the pressure on at the top. Today's games at the Calderón and the Cerámica were already full of interest in and of themselves, but the Andalusians' derby win merely adds to that. They've drawn level on points with Real Madrid, albeit having played two more; nevertheless, it confirms they're a force to be reckoned with in this title race. Betis are, not without justification, complaining of offside in the build-up to Sevilla's second, but it's equally the case that Jorge Sampaoli's men served up another exhibition of their tenacity. They play good football and, as their anthem goes, they never give in. Their persistence means the points at stake in Madrid and Vila-real are even more important.
On-song Atleti host Barcelona with midfield problems
First up is the clash on the banks of the Manzanares. Atlético Madrid are brimming with belief again, with the pairing of Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann boasting a fantastic understanding and Fernando Torres also in splendid form, leaving them with options in attack. Barcelona come into it on the back of two matches to forget for their midfield, which Luis Enrique finds himself chopping and changing without solving the issue. He can't get it right. Sergio Busquets' unexpected collapse, allied with the more understandable drop-off of an ageing Andrés Iniesta, has torpedoed the engine room of a side who made their domination of games the stuff of legend. They do, though, still have Leo Messi and Co up front. A real threat.
BBC back for Real hurting from midweek defeat
Then it's to Vila-real. A tough away assignment for anyone. Real arrive at the Cerámica still raw from defeat at Valencia and with Zinedine Zidane tasked with 'managing abundance', as Santiago Segurola put it in this paper. The game sees the return of the BBC, which tends to translate into more goals at both ends: undoubted prowess going forward, but reduced protection for the midfield and, in turn, tougher times for the defence. Villarreal are a proper side who occupy the spaces well and give nothing away. And who knows, when Real take to the field they may have been overtaken by Barça. Either way, Sevilla have pulled level with them. A sizeable cushion's been whittled down. Today, nobody can afford to slip up.
Follow the LaLiga 2016/2017 match Villarreal – Real Madrid .