What a weekend in La Liga, and for Lionel Messi.

The Argentinian grabbed all of the headlines once more in the Spanish top flight after his treble against Mallorca took him to the top of the Pichichi standings and ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo for most hat-tricks in the league.

It was the 35th hat-trick for Barca’s captain in La Liga, one more than the Portuguese managed for Real Madrid. Not bad for a player who isn’t a striker ostensibly.

Having not scored for the opening seven games of the 2019/20 campaign due to injury, just eight matches later he is already on 12 goals; one more than the previous front runner, Karim Benzema, who has played six games more.

All of his finishes were of the highest quality too, and another sensational record tumbled on the night as Messi became the first player ever in the top five European leagues to score 10 or more goals for the 14th consecutive season.

On the night, however, a night in which he presented his sixth Ballon d’Or to an adoring Camp Nou, he was upstaged on the goalscoring front by Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan’s audacious backheel chip is a Puskas Award contender if ever there was.

The eventual 5-2 win for Barcelona over Mallorca, which also included a peach from Antoine Griezmann, kept them top on goal difference from Real Madrid.

Los Blancos weren’t at their best against Espanyol, but they didn’t need to be. Los Periquitos are always the most accommodating of opponents at the Santiago Bernabeu, and without getting out of second gear, Real still won at a canter.

Zinedine Zidane will be much more concerned with the next two games that his side face; away at Valencia and then away at Barcelona in the rearranged El Clasico.

Los Che have been a thorn in the side for Real at Mestalla, with the away side winning on only one of their last five visits. They have scored in all of those games, however, so the onus is really on the hosts to get the result.

The visitors will know that Barca face one of their hardest away fixtures of the season at Real Sociedad, so a win for Real Madrid could put them in the box seat ahead of their trip to the Camp Nou.

An advantage will be preferred by Zidane principally because in their last 15 visits there in La Liga, Los Blancos have won on only three occasions. Barca are also unbeaten, home and away, in the last six league clasicos.

Atletico Madrid were expected to be one of the challengers to the usual duopoly, but after a strong start, the Rojiblancos have dropped off considerably.

VILLAREAL, SPAIN - DECEMBER 06: Diego Simeone of Atletico de Madrid gestures during the Liga match between Villarreal CF and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio de la Ceramica on December 06, 2019 in Villareal, Spain. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Only 16 goals scored is exactly half of their Madrid neighbours’ output, and is the worst attacking figures of the top 13 clubs in the division. It’s clear where their deficiencies lie, and one goal in their last four games in all competitions is nowhere close to being acceptable.

It’s been suggested that Diego Costa’s long-term injury has much to do with their lack of goals, however, the former Chelsea man wasn’t in the best form before being sidelined.

Only now has Antoine Griezmann’s absence really hit home, and although Alvaro Morata hit a purple patch a few games ago, he can’t do it all on his own. His striking partners and the more attacking midfielders need to contribute.

Elsewhere in La Liga, the story of the weekend has to be Joaquin’s 20 minute hat-trick for Betis against Athletic Club in their 3-2 win. A player who is universally loved by anyone with an interest in Spanish football, the 38-year-old became the oldest player ever to score three in the same game, taking Alfredo di Stefano’s record.

The Verdiblancos nearly blew their three-goal lead as Los Leones came on strong in the latter stages. That they didn’t, eases the pressure on Betis coach, Rubi, as his side climb into 11th.

Levante will be kicking themselves after the Valencia derby. They’d raced into a two-goal lead through Roger Marti, but then the same player scored an own goal in first-half injury time to hand Los Che a lifeline.

Kevin Gameiro’s two in two minutes put the visitors ahead, and after Levante’s Falcon was sent off, it was backs against the wall for the hosts. Ferran Torres eventually breached their defence again for a 4-2 Valencia victory.

With only two shots on target against Real Valladolid, Real Sociedad will be ruing the missed chance to keep right in touch with the leaders. It was an unusually off colour performance from La Real who now find themselves seven points adrift of Barcelona, and the Catalans have a game in hand.

Granada’s 3-0 defeat of Alaves saw them back to ninth in the table, whilst Getafe are back up to fifth after a slender 1-0 win over a fading Eibar side.

Oscar Rodriquez’s fine double helped take Leganes off of the bottom, their 3-2 win over Celta in the first genuine ‘six-pointer’ of the season bringing them to within four points of the Galicians and five from safety, and sending Espanyol to the foot of the table.

And in the final game of the weekend, Sevilla had the chance to move to within a hair’s breadth of Barca and Real, but thanks to Chimy Avila’s sensational equaliser in first-half injury-time, and some stout defensive work once Oier was sent off with half an hour still to play, Munir El Haddadi’s strike for the Andalusians earned them just a point.

 

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