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La Liga Weekly: Girona, Real Madrid register convincing wins as Barcelona, Atletico lose further ground

There were further twists and turns in the La Liga title race on Matchday 17, with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona dropping points and drifting further away from the top two.

Here’s a run-down of everything that went down at the weekend.

Real Madrid thump Villarreal, as Luka Modric runs the show

Luke Modric rolled back the years with a stunning performance as Real Madrid defeated Villarreal 4-1 in their last home game of 2023.

The Yellow Submarine are the only team to come away from the Santiago Bernabeu with three points this year, but were no match for their opponents this time around.

The opening goal came in the 25th minute from a very familiar source. Modric clipped in an exquisite first-time cross for Jude Bellingham, who rose highest to head past Filip Jorgensen.

It was 2-0 before the break when Rodrygo swept home following a scrap that ensued from a corner. The goal was initially ruled out for offside, but replays showed that the Brazilian was well behind the last man.

Madrid were controlling the game, but Villarreal threw a spanner in the works eight minutes into the second period when Jose Morales finished past Andriy Lunin to make it 2-1.

Brahim Diaz produced something special to restore his side’s two-goal advantage. The Spaniard received the ball close to the halfway line, turned his man and then dribbled past one more defender before finishing into the bottom corner.

The scoring was rounded off five minutes later when Modric got his goal with a left-footed strike from the edge of the box.

Madrid temporarily went top of the table, with Girona playing on Monday night.

Girona return to the top with a routine win

Madrid’s time at the summit didn’t last long as Girona beat Deportivo Alaves 3-0 on Monday night.

Michel’s men had over 700 successful passes in this game, and they were largely in control right from the first whistle.

Artem Dovbyk opened the scoring with a quarter of the game gone, and Portu made it 2-0 before half-time.

Dovbyk then dispatched a penalty on the hour mark, taking his tally in the league for the season to 12.

Girona are on 44 points, two ahead of Madrid. Alaves are just three points above the relegation zone.

Barcelona pegged back by Valencia

Barcelona’s struggles continued, as they dropped two more points in a 1-1 draw at Valencia.

The first half was goalless but not eventless, as both goalkeepers were called into action on more than one occasion.

The deadlock was broken on 55 minutes when Raphinha found Joao Felix to tap into an attempt net.

The lead lasted 15 minutes before Hugo Guillamon picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curled an absolute beauty into the far corner.

Raphinha had a late chance and Barca’s hopes of victory were over. They are now nine points off top spot.

Athletic Bilbao beat Atletico Madrid to strengthen top-four push

Ernesto Valverde’s men recorded a statement 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid at San Mames, to further their push for a Champions League spot.

Bilbao were on top from the off, with Atletico keeper Jan Oblak needed to keep out Gorka Guruzeta and Oihan Sancet. Inaki Williams had Oblak beaten with a low drive, but his effort came back off the post.

The home side were then awarded a penalty when Caglar Soyuncu brought down Nico Williams in the box. The resultant spot-kick was ballooned over the bar by Sancet.

The deadlock was finally broken six minutes into the second period, when Ander Herrera found Guruzeta unmarked at the back post, and the striker made no mistake with his finish this time.

Atletico were then dealt a hammer blow after 63 minutes, when Williams scored an absolute stunner, curling in a left-footed shot from a difficult angle.

Diego Simeone’s side have now lost two of their last three games, and are 10 points behind Girona, despite having a game in hand.

Around the grounds

In the relegation six-pointer of the week, Celta Vigo beat Granada 1-0 to gain three much-needed points.

Jorgen Strand Larsen scored the only goal of the game in the 20th minute, but Celta ended the game with ten men as Iago Aspas was sent off with 10 minutes to go.

Sevilla’s woes continued, as they slipped to 17th in the table following a 3-0 home defeat to Getafe.

Champions League-chasing Real Sociedad and Real Betis played out a goalless draw at the San Sebastian. Almeria and Real Mallorca also drew.

Raul Garcia scored in the fifth minute of injury-time for Osasuna to beat Rayo Vallecano 1-0, while Cadiz equalised late at Las Palmas to secure a 1-1 draw.

Player of the week

The player of the week is Modric. The 38-year-old midfielder bagged a goal and an assist in his side’s 4-1 win and looked very much like the player who won the Ballon d’Or in 2018.

Looking ahead

The next round of fixtures will be played in midweek, with Girona and Madrid on their travels to Real Betis and Deportivo Alaves, respectively.

Barcelona host bottom club Almeria, while Atletico will look to get back to winning ways at home to Getafe.

Sevilla travel to Granada and will see this as an opportunity to win three points and lift themselves in the table.

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