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La Liga round-up: Real Madrid close off the year in style, Barca and Atletico stumble once more

December 23, 2021 By Ali M.
Benzema inspired his side to victory in their final game of 2021 while the Blaugrana and the defending champions dropped points.

Several exciting games took place in La Liga from Friday to Tuesday, with Matchday 18 in the Spanish top-flight kicking off with Celta Vigo's 3-0 win over Espanyol on December 17. While this round ended on Monday with Valencia's 4-3 triumph over Levante, a few postponed fixtures took place over the midweek.

As a result, the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico were in action twice in the span of four days. While all three teams endured a few hiccups, Diego Simeone's side suffered the most, with Los Rojiblancos losing both games, going 2-1 down away to Sevilla over the weekend before losing to Granada by an identical score line. 

The Blaugrana and Los Blancos, on the other hand, managed one victory and a draw, with Xavi's men triumphing over Elche during the weekend before drawing with Sevilla while Benzema and Co. shared the points with Cadiz on Sunday before beating Athletic Club 2-1.

Villarreal, meanwhile, were also in action twice, winning both games to climb up the table. One of those victories came against Real Sociedad, with La Real losing 3-1 against Unai Emery's side, continuing their freefall down the standings. Sevilla, on the flip side, kept up pace with league leaders Real Madrid. Here's everything you need to know about the recent action in La Liga ahead of the new calendar year.

Who are the top teams in La Liga?

La Liga, Atletico, Real Betis, Real Madrid, Rayo Vallecano, Sevilla, Standings 

La Liga top 3 scorers 

Karim Benzema, Juanmi, Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid, Real Betis, La Liga, Pichichi

La Liga – top headlines 

Athletic Club took on Real Betis over the weekend, with the Basque outfit sealing an impressive 3-2 victory over their Spanish rivals. The reliable Inaki Williams grabbed a brace in Sunday's victory, with his second effort in particular being a stunning strike. With that two-goal haul, Los Verdiblancos became Inaki's favorites opponents to score against (6). However, this was the first time he found the back of the net against Real Betis at home.

Levante's horrible season continued, with the relegation-battling side losing 4-3 at home to Valencia. They are yet to win a single game this season, having picked up only eight points from their opening 18 fixtures. Seventh and sixteenth placed Elche and Getafe now boast almost double the points of Levante (15 points each).

Barcelona put in a respectable display away to Sevilla, but the Spanish giants were only able to pick up a point after drawing 1-1. Nonetheless, there were lots of positive from that game, with Xavi's men attempting 15 shots in the first half. This is both the club and league record for this season.

After suffering back-to-back defeats, Atletico are left with 29 points after 18 games. In comparison, Real Madrid boasted 43 points after as many games, meaning this is the first time Los Rojiblancos find themselves 14 points worse off than Los Merengues after round 18 since 2012.

Benzema netted a brace as Real Madrid beat Athletic Club 2-1 on Tuesday. As a result, the Frenchman became the fourth player not named Messi or Cristiano to score 30+ La Liga goals in a single calendar year in this century, joining the likes of Luis Suárez (2015 & 2016), Radamel Falcao (2012) & Ronaldo Nazario (2003) as the only attackers besides Leo (9x) and CR7 (7x) to achieve this feat.

Furthermore, Real Madrid stretched their unbeaten against Athletic Club at the San Mamés to seven league games, which is a club record for the league leaders. Additionally, they've also won their last three trips there.

When does the 2021/22 La Liga season resume and what are the top matches from the upcoming round? 

La Liga is all but done for 2021, with only one fixture remaining, that being the Valencia vs Espanyol showdown on New Year's Eve. There are no fixtures set to take place on New Year's Day, with the action instead resuming on January 2. Here are the top matches to watch in the upcoming Spanish Primera Division round:

Getafe vs Real Madrid: The 2-1 win over Athletic Club means Los Blancos will enter 2022 with an eight-point lead at the top. A brace from Benzema was the most befitting way to win, given how excellent the Frenchman has been over the calendar year. Ancelotti's men will not be in action until after New Year's Day, with a showdown vs Getafe coming straight after that. Will Real Madrid continue their unbeaten streak or does a surprise defeat at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Pérez await Los Merengues? Do not miss this tie!

Atletico vs Rayo Vallecano: Simeone's men will wave farewell to 2021 having suffered defeats in their final two games of the calendar year. Those losses leave Los Rojiblancos 17 points behind in their title defense, meaning the odds of Suarez and Co. successfully retaining their league crown are near to impossible. However, Atletico must mount a comeback. Next up for the Spanish giants is a tricky clash with a Rayo Vallecano side that sit a point and a spot above Simeone's side. Make sure to catch this fixture

Mallorca vs Barcelona: While the Blaugrana boast only one win from their last four league games, Barcelona are still within two points of a top-four spot, which remains their only achievable target for the season. Unfortunately, had Xavi's men beaten 10-man Sevilla during the midweek, they would have entered 2022 sitting in a UEFA Champions League spot. The Catalan giants will have to make amends, starting from their showdown with Mallorca on January 2. 

*Keep track of all the action in the Spanish top-flight by following our dedicated La Liga competition page.  

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