La Liga: Four things we learned from Spain's Matchday 26 this weekend (analysis)

Madrid, Mar 21 (IANS): Franck Kessie's 92nd-minute goal gave FC Barcelona a 2-1 win over Real Madrid at Camp Nou Stadium on Sunday night to give Xavi Hernandez's side a 12-point lead over their nearest rivals as we go into the international break.

Here are some things we learned as La Liga prepares for a week off.

1. Barca are champion-elect

The way the Barcelona players celebrated after beating Real Madrid in Camp Nou on Sunday night made it clear the win had all but assured them the La Liga title, and it's hard to disagree, reports Xinhua.

Barca are 12 points clear at the top of La Liga with 12 more points available, and even if Real Madrid win all of their remaining games, Barca would have to lose four times. Given that they have suffered just two defeats in La Liga all season, with one of those against Real Madrid, that looks very unlikely.

Xavi Hernandez's side has not been spectacular this season, but it has been tough to beat, conceding just nine goals in their first 26 matches of the campaign, and it is that low number of goals against them that is what will win them the title

2. Real Madrid can take hope for Copa del Rey

Although Real Madrid's league hopes were all but ended on Sunday night, Carlo Ancelotti's men can perhaps take some hope for their Copa del Rey semifinal tie, which is at Camp Nou on April 5th.

Although Real Madrid trail 1-0 after losing the first leg in front of their fans, they showed enough on Sunday to believe they can overturn that deficit.

Marco Asensio was unlucky to be slightly offside when he had the ball in the net for what would have been 1-2 in the 80th minute and they caught Barca enough times on the break to make you believe that with some better finishing, a Copa del Rey fightback in two weeks is not beyond them.

3. Atletico benefitting from European exit

Although the club's accounts may not agree, it is hard to argue with the fact that Atletico Madrid's early exit from Europe this season has helped them find consistency in their league form.

Before the World Cup, Atletico's form was very irregular, to the extent that there were even questions over the future of coach Diego Simeone. However, the past two and a half months have seen Atletico get back to their best with a run of seven wins and two draws from their last nine matches.

Antoine Griezmann has been outstanding in that period, and World Cup winner Rodrigo de Paul has also taken a step forward in terms of performances in central midfield.

With no European commitments, Atletico have been able to focus fully on La Liga, they have suffered fewer niggling injuries and their form has all but guaranteed them a place in next season's Champions League.

4. Carlos Carvahal is doing a good job with Celta

Celta Vigo's 3-1 win away to Espanyol on Saturday lifted them to 10th in the table, with 34 points from 26 games.

Celta are eight points clear of the relegation zone after some difficult weeks and could even have a slight chance of qualifying for Europe next season.

The arrival of Carlos Carvahal as the coach has seen a big improvement in form, with youngster Gabri Veiga the club's hope for the future, while Iago Aspas is back to his best and back in the Spain squad and central defender Unai Nunez is enjoying the continuity he didn't get with Athletic Club Bilbao.

Carvajal's side is enjoying themselves, scoring goals and showing that his appointment was a master-stroke.



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Title: La Liga: Four things we learned from Spain's Matchday 26 this weekend (analysis)

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