Four things we learned from Spain's matchday 23

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-11 19:29:54|Editor: Xiaoxia
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MADRID, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona maintained their 6-point lead at the top of the Liga Santander after the 23rd round of games in Spain, albiet with a different team now in second as Real Madrid won the Madrid derby against neighbors' Atletico Madrid.

Here are some things we learned in Spain this week.

1. Barca will welcome this week's rest

It's been a busy start to the year for FC Barcelona and the other three sides who reached the semifinals of the Copa del Rey and the coming week gives Barca (and Betis) their first chance of a midweek without a game since the start of the year.

Real Madrid were the only cup semifinalist to win at the weekend, with Valencia looking flat and Betis losing in Leganes.

Barca were fortunate to take a point from their visit to Bilbao with goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen keeping them in the game against a rival who were rarely threatened by Messi and company. Messi looked to be lacking fitness and perhaps he more than anyone will welcome time to recover his tired muscles.

2. Real Madrid recovery a reality

Real Madrid's 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday lifted them above their neighbors in the Liga Santander table and extended their winning run in the league to five games.

Add to that their progressing to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey and a 1-1 draw away to FC Barcelona in the first leg of that semifinal, and things are now looking good for Santiago Solari.

The coach has shown he has the courage to sideline players such as Isco and Marcelo, while Gareth Bale started on the bench to allow Vinicius Jr. a place in Saturday's starting 11 and Solari's bravery has helped to set up a positive feedback loop in which results breed confidence. For the moment, these are happy times at the Bernabeu.

3. Atletico letting things slip

Although Atletico can point to some debatable refereeing decisions in their defeat to Real Madrid, the fact is Diego Simeone's side disappointed against a rival that had played a demanding game away to Barcelona just three days previously.

The same thing happened a week ago when Atletico lost to Betis in the Benito Villamarin Stadium. Simeone probably knows that if his side had won, rather than lost to rivals who had less preparation time than his players, Atletico would now be just two points, rather than eight behind Barca.

This season's Champions League final is in Atletico's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Could it be that Simeone is putting all his eggs in one basket? As his side faces Juventus in Europe, that is a big risk to take.

4. Girona in real trouble

With Eusebio Sacristan at the helm, Girona were one of the revelations of the opening weeks of the season in Spain as they pressured for a place in the top-6 of the table.

However, Girona have taken just four points from a possible 30 with four draws and six defeats from their last 10 games.

Part of the reason for the problem is that the goals have dried up for top-scorer Cristhian Stauni, who scored 21 goals last campaign and has 12 this season, but tellingly just one since December 2nd.

Eusebio's sides play attractive football, but don't defend well and now that they are not scoring, logic is taking its course.

Whether Eusebio is still in charge next weekend when they visit Real Madrid is open to debate, but everything points to that being their 11th game without a win and Girona could be in the bottom three.