Keshav Vivek

The race to the top in the La Liga is getting tighter by the day. The trio of FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are almost neck to neck and there’s little chance for error.  Barcelona put forward their claim with an emphatic win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. The thumping 6 – 0 margin underlined the excellent form of key players Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas. The opening goal was by Adriano. Messi and Fabregas then combined to put the Catalan club 2 – 0 ahead.

Neymar's return will only strenghten Barcelona's push for the La Liga title. Image courtesy: Basc Catala

Neymar’s return will only strenghten Barcelona’s push for the La Liga title.
Image courtesy: Basc Catala

The goal was another milestone for the Argentine playmaker, his 227th in the Primera Liga, a tally that brings him on par with the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano. They now jointly occupy the position of the fourth highest scorer in La Liga history. That both donned the Argentine jersey, were of Italian descent and plied their trade in Spain only adds to the charming anecdote. The Argentine turned provider as Barca sealed the points in the opening minutes of the second half.

But the Catalans were not content. Again it was Messi who provided the breakthrough, setting up Alexis Sanchez for the third goal. Fabregas and Iniesta supplied Pedro to bag Barca their fourth. The limelight shifted back to Messi who completed his brace in the 68th minutes to leave Di Stefano behind and draw level with Raul Gonzalez at 228 goals apiece. As if to sound off the rest of the competition, Neymar celebrated his return from injury by smashing in the final goal in the 88th minute.

Atletico Madrid gave themselves a breather with a comfortable victory over Valladolid, something that they desperately needed after three consecutive defeats. The side looked like they were down in the dumps but managed a 3 – 0 win with contributions from Raul Garcia and the two Diegos – Costa and Godin. Barcelona and Atletico’s home wins on Saturday piled on the pressure for Real Madrid but they came out all guns blazing.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side pulled level with a 3 – 0 away victory over Getafe with goals by Jese, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric. The win enabled them stay on top of the table in terms of points. But Barcelona’s superior goal difference (52) places it at the top of the table. Real follow at second place with 44 and Atletico at third with 43. All have an identical tally of 60 points from 24 matches with an identical breakup – 19 wins, 3 losses, and 2 ties, as neck-to-neck as the competition can get. The coming weeks will only add to the excitement for La Liga fans.