Barcelona steals the lead before El Clasico with a ‘Poker’ from Messi

messi and braithwaite
Messi scored 4 times and debutant Braithwaite assisted, as the Blaugrana climbed into 1st place. Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The El Clasico that can decide the La Liga table is already next week. However, as most would have thought that Real Madrid would host Barcelona, comfortably on top of the standings, this weekend there was a plot twist.

Zidane’s men suffered a blow as they were unable to get past Levante, getting wounded to a single goal from Morales. Meanwhile, Barcelona cruised against Eibar, as Messi cured his goal drought with a 4 goal display.

Interesting enough? Check out what happened throughout all the matchday 25.

Barcelona 5 x 0 Eibar

Barcelona welcomed Eibar to Camp Nou safe in the knowledge that a win would put them temporarily in the top spot with Real Madrid due to play later on Saturday. The Catalan giants coached by Quique Setien, wasted no time getting the match won either with Lionel Messi running the show.

Firstly, on the 14 he danced through the Eibar defense before dispatching a left-footed strike beyond Marko Dmitrovic. Then on 37 it was Messi again that skipped through on goal and that trusty left boot found the bottom corner for 2-0 and just three minutes later the Argentinian grabbed his hat-trick as he took advantage of a mix up in Eibar’s backline.

Just after the hour mark, Barca survived a scare when Anaitz Arbilla had a goal ruled out, somewhat harshly. Then, with just a few minutes remaining Messi grabbed his fourth goal of the game turning in from close range after good work from debutant Martin Braithwaite.

On 89, Braithwaite was involved again. This time Soriano saved his low strike and Arthur Melo followed in to make it 5-0.

Levante 1 x 0 Real Madrid

Real Madrid was already aware of Barca’s five-star display when they arrived in Valencia to take on Levante. Things hardly went to plan for Zinedine Zidane’s men.

The visitors had several chances but Aitor Fernandez denied Karim Benzema and Luka Modric. On the occasion that Fernandez got it wrong, Casemiro headed wide with the Levante keeper in no man’s land after a poor punch.

Eden Hazard wasted another golden opportunity to put Madrid in front as uncharacteristic poor control allowed the chance to get away from him.

To make matters worse, the Belgian forward left the field injured shortly after with a Champions League tie with Man City up next. Hazard continues to be part of the Real Madrid injury nightmare.

He missed a total of 20 games this season: the same number of games he missed in the 6 seasons he was in Chelsea.

Levante was growing in confidence as time ticked on and on 79 took the lead. Jose Luis Morales chased a hopeful ball forward and, from a tight position on the left-hand side of Real’s area, slapped a sensational half volley in at Thibaut Courtois’ near post to make it 1-0.

It proved enough to consign Real to the first defeat since October. Now a double test puts Zidane’s men on fire: first Manchester City in the Champions League and then Barcelona for the El Clasico.

Atletico Madrid 3 x 1 Villarreal

Atletico’s form hasn’t been great of late but they were buoyed ahead of their home tie with Villarreal. All this due to an impressive 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Things hardly picked up where they left off though and on 16 the hosts found themselves behind, Paco Alcacer the scorer with a 20-yard effort that flashed past Jan Oblak to make it 0-1.

Sergio Asenjo kept Atletico at bay with a double save as they looked to hit back immediately but on 40 Angel Correa did manage to level; the Atletico forward stole in behind to latch onto Sime Vrsaljko’s lofted ball and although Asenjo got a touch he couldn’t keep it out.

The second half saw Atletico take control of things; Correa turned provider on 64 setting up Koke who headed in from six yards and then 10 minutes later Koke intercepted as Villarreal tried to play out from the back and Joao Felix fired in from the edge of the area.

Real Sociedad 3 x 0 Valencia

Real Sociedad and Valencia are both in the hunt for the European places in La Liga and it was the hosts who seized the initiative on 12.

Valencia didn’t have time to establish any confidence after the Italian drubbing they suffered in midweek against Atalanta (4×1). An unmarked Mikel Merino nodded home from eight yards out to break the deadlock.

Sociedad was by far the better side and in first half injury time, they made it 2-0 as Nacho Monreal arrived at the far post to bundle over the line from a corner after Aritz Elustondo won a flick-on.

If Valencia thought an early goal in the second period would change the match then they were proven right on 48. Unfortunately, its was Adnan Januzaj who lashed in a third for Sociedad to all but end the contest.

Valencia had a couple of half-chances from set pieces but never truly worked Alex Remiro in the home goal.

Celta Vigo 1 x 0 Leganes

Celta Vigo and their visitors Leganes are both deeply locked in a relegation dogfight and it looked like the away side had the edge when Celta were reduced to 10 men after just 20 minutes.

Filip Bradaric was the man shown red for a lunging tackle that caught Unai Bustinza high up.

That was the only talking point until 62 when Leganes midfielder Oscar Rodriguez was shown a red card but VAR overruled the decision to a yellow.

Bigger punishment was to follow though as Iago Aspas put Celta ahead from the resultant free-kick with his deft flick enough to beat Juan Soriano for the opener – and as it proved, the winner.

Alaves 2 x 1 Athletic Bilbao

Alaves suffered a huge blow last week when they fell to defeat against Mallorca and things didn’t look like getting any better when they fell behind against Athletic Bilbao after 17 minutes. Raul Garcia the man to sweep home from 18 yards after a quickly taken free kick caught Alaves napping.

The hosts soon equalized though thanks to a Lucas Perez penalty that was awarded on 27 after Yeray tripped Aleix Vidal.

There were no clear cut chances to speak of from then on with a miss hit Alaves cross that hit the bar the closest either side went. That is at least until stoppage time when Rodrigo Ely stuck out a boot to turn home Lucas Perez’s free kick to put eight points between them and the bottom three.

Real Betis 3 x 3 Mallorca

The weekend got off to a goal-filled start on Friday night as relegation-threatened Mallorca traveled to take on Real Betis. It was the away side who took the lead with the goal coming on 16.

Takefusa Kubo saw his effort blocked and it sat up for Cucho Hernandez who volleyed in from 16 yards. The lead only lasted three minutes though, Nabil Fekir burst into the area and was body checked by Leonardo Koutris.

Sergio Canales took responsibility for the spot-kick and duly rolled home to level things up.

Betis were inches from going in front shortly after as Loren hit the foot of the post from 20 yards but the game was end to end and, on 27, Ante Budimir applied the finishing touch to a flowing Mallorca move for 1-2.

Like before, that lead didn’t last long and, again, parity was restored from the penalty spot after a handball. This time Fekir took the penalty and got away with a poor strike as it squirmed underneath Manolo Reina.

On 48, Betis went in front for the first time with a well taken finish from Joaquin and after Mallorca saw strong penalty appeals turned away it looked like their efforts were for nothing but on 70 Kubo fired in for 3-3, although Joel Robles should have saved, and it could prove a big point in the end.

Getafe 0 x 3 Sevilla

Getafe and Sevilla locked horns on Sunday evening with the home side knowing a win would keep them hot on the tails of the top two but Sevilla is in the mix too and they were the team asking the questions early on.

On 45, the pressure eventually told with Lucas Ocampus touching home from two yards after Reguilon’s low cross.

Sevilla keeper Tomas Vaclik was forced off with injury but his replacement, Bono, was a virtual spectator and on 67 the away side doubled their lead. Suso delivered a free-kick to the back post, Luuk de Jong kept it alive and Fernando prodded home.

Eight minutes later it was 0-3, Fernando was involved again as he passed in to Jules Kounde who took a touch before firing home.

Osasuna 0 x 3 Granada

Granada started the season superbly but a dip in form saw them fall away, however, recent results has given them an outside chance of sneaking into the top six come may – a case that looks stronger after the way the brushed Osasuna aside on Sunday.

It only took four minutes for Granada to get their noses in front and it was a gift wrapped from the home side; Aridane Hernandez played out from the back and sloppily gave the ball away and it found it’s way to Darwin Machis who fired powerfully in at the near post.

On 28 Machis found himself in a not dissimilar position but this time opted to go across Sergio Herrera, again, with a fierce left-footed hit to make it 0-2.

Before half time the game was over with Osasuna yet to force Rui Silva into a save. This time Yangel Herrera disguised a clever pass into the path of Dimitri Foulquier and he put a low effort through Herrera who should have comfortably kept the ball out.

The second half wasn’t quite as full of goals with neither side hitting the net but whilst Granada were wasteful in front of goal, Osasuna was clearly missing Chimy Avila upfront as they failed to create anything of note.

Real Valladolid 2 x 1 Espanyol

Espanyol was taken apart in the Europa league by Wolves but a trip to take on Real Valladolid presented an opportunity to get back to winning ways.

Things hardly got off to shining start though when David Lopez collected two bookings inside 25 minutes meaning Espanyol had to play the lions share of the game with 10 men.

On 77, the tired legs finally told. Diego Lopez failed to hold a long range strike and the Espanyol defense were slow to react and Sandro turned in the pieces for 1-0.

That turned to 2-0 just five minutes later; Sergio Guardiola tapping in after Enes Unal ran in behind and squared.

Espanyol did grab a consolation late on through an Adrian Embarba penalty but the games are fast running out for the basement club.

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