Dec 22, 2013, 8:47 PM EST
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo usually dominate La Liga’s scoring charts, but through 17 rounds of this season’s competition, a Brazilian-cum-Spaniard is setting the pace, scoring goals at a rate that would press a healthy Messi to keep up. But with the Argentine icon sidelined for Barcelona, it’s up to Ronaldo to challenge Atléitco Madrid’s Diego Costa for the Pichichi, a race the 25-year-old striker leads after two goals on Saturday. The brace gave Atleti a 3-2 win over visiting Levante, vaulting Costa to 18 goals on the season.
Costa, on to track to represent Spain in his native Brazil at the 2014 World Cup, gave Atlético their first lead in the 47th minute, beating Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas in the lower-left corner with a volley off Gabi’s restart. Thirty minutes later, converting a penalty conceded by Rubén García, Costa secured Atleti’s 15th win in 17 games, temporarily moving the colchoneros to the top of the Primera Division.
“He had another great game,” Atlético head coach Diego Simeone said after the game. “He continues to show that if the Ballon d’Or deadline had been extended a bit, he would probably have been in the fight for it.”
Barcelona would reclaim their league lead on Sunday, the Blaugrana’s 5-2 win at Getafe keeping Gerardo Martino’s team top on goal difference, but Costa would finish the weekend first on the league’s scoring chart. With Ronaldo only scoring once in Real Madrid’s 3-2 win at Valencia, Costa has a one-goal lead on the Pichichi favorite, Messi’s hamstring injury having opened the gate for a new champion.
If the tabloids are to be believed, however, Costa’s quest for the crown could end at some point next month. As all players in Spain do, the 25-year-old has a release clause, but because the two-time Brazilian international’s rise has been particularly steep, his clause doesn’t reflect his current value.
Whereas most release values are prohibitively high, Costa’s is just over $52 million. While that price prevents most from dreaming of swiping Costa, it may not prevent a team like Chelsea or Arsenal from unlocking that door in January. If Costa wants to pursue a huge payday, Atlético may not be able to stop him.
As Manchester United found out this summer, activating a release clause from beyond Spain’s borders can be tricky, but with Costa’s value having peaked while teams like Chelsea need a number nine, that $52 million could loom particularly large in two Spanish races. Not only could Costa’s quest for the Pichichi end if his release clause is triggered, but Atlético’s challenge of Barcelona could fade if its star elects to cash in on his newfound success.
Barcelona, Real Madrid complete perfect weekend for top three
One day after Atlético had taken first place, Barcelona and Real Madrid did their parts to maintain pace, Spain’s traditional big two pushing the league’s title-contending trio forward with wins at Getafe and Valencia.
Barcelona dug a hole for themselves by conceding twice within 15 minutes in Madrid but fired back through Pedro Rodríguez by halftime. The Spanish international scored three times in 10 minutes to give Barcelona a lead going into the break, one Cesc Fábregas would build on with a second half brace. Matching Atlético’s 15-1-1 mark, Barcelona reclaimed first place, their +37 goal difference besting Atleti by two.
In Sunday’s final match, Valencia pulled back two Real Madrid leads, Pablo Piatti answering Ángel Di María in the first half before Jeremy Mathieu rebuked Ronaldo in the second. Had Jesé given Los Che more than eight minutes to respond, El Real may have conceded again, but after a 3-2 win at the Mestalla, Carlo Ancelotti’s team stays within five of the top.
- Elche 1-0 Malaga – Ignacio Camacho’s first goal since Jan. 16 had the visitors up after six minutes, a lead which became much easier to defend when Damián Suárez earned a second yellow in the 60th. The teams combined for four shots on goal.
- Villarreal 1-2 Sevilla – One point in their last three means the honeymoon’s over for the Yellow Submarine, who fall to sixth after their loss on Saturday. Sevilla got goals from Cala and Carlos Bacca before being reduced to 10 after Cala’s 86th minute red card. Jérémy Perbet converted the ensuing penalty, but Villarreal still fell to their second straight loss.
- Real Betis 0-1 Almeria – A winnable game for Betis turned into the cellar dwellers’ 11th loss of the season when they were unable to pullback Ramón Azeez’s fourth minute goal.
- Espanyol 4-2 Valladolid – For the second time this season, Espanyol explodes for four, with goals on either side of halftime from Christian Stuani complemented by Sergio García’s fifth minute penalty conversion and Victor Sánchez’s second half tally. Once up 4-0, Espanyol conceded to Javi Guerra and Victor Pérez in the final 15 minutes.
- Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Rayo Vallecano – Athletic have a four-point cushion ahead of fifth place Real Sociedad after Mikel Rico’s 66th minute goal broke a 1-1 tie, sending Ernesto Valverde’s team to their third win in four.
- Celta Vigo 1-1 Osasuna – Coming off a disappointing 3-0 Monday loss at Valladolid, Luis Enrique’s team never found net, Lolo’s 34th minute own goal pulling back Emiliano’s Armenteros’s 17th minute opener for Osasuna.
(all teams have played 17 matches)
1. Barcelona, 46 pts.
2. Atlético Madrid, 46 pts.
3. Real Madrid, 41 pts.
4. Athletic Bilbao 33 pts.
5. Real Sociedad, 29 pts.
6. Villarreal, 28 pts.
7. Sevilla, 26 pts.
8. Getafe, 23 pts.
9. Espanyol, 22 pts.
10. Valencia, 20 pts.
11. Granada, 20 pts.
12. Levante, 20 pts.
13. Malaga, 20 pts.
14. Elche, 17 pts.
15. Celta Vigo, 16 pts.
16. Almeria, 16 pts.
17. Osasuna, 15 pts.
18. Valladolid, 15 pts.
19. Rayo Vallecano, 13 pts.
20. Real Betis, 10 pts.
Mar 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EST
Bocanegra will work with MLS Atlanta president Darren Eales, who has worked with Premier League clubs West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur.
Mar 2, 2015, 12:36 PM EST
The Daily Mail had reported that three cops cars stormed a Premier Leaguer’s apartment earlier Monday to make the arrest.
Mar 2, 2015, 12:22 PM EST
KC only has two Designated Players — Matt Besler and Zusi — and RVDV would be a nice match provided the money works for both parties.
Mar 2, 2015, 12:00 PM EST
The Lions will roar into MLS after several successful seasons in the third-tier. How will Orlando fare in 2015?
Mar 2, 2015, 10:48 AM EST
Hull takes on Sunderland, Bruce’s old club, on Tuesday.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:06 AM EST
PST’s Editor and Lead Writer take a look back at Week 27 in the Premier League.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:00 AM EST
Chelsea fans on a train from London to Manchester have been accused of more racist behavior following the club’s 2-0 League Cup final win over Tottenham on Sunday.
Mar 2, 2015, 9:23 AM EST
Barring a catastrophic run of injuries, Chelsea looks set for a double, but the treble will take all of Mourinho’s managerial magic and likely some luck.
Mar 2, 2015, 9:02 AM EST
Can NYCFC capture the hearts and minds of soccer fans in the Big Apple? Here’s a look at how things are shaping up for their inaugural season in MLS.
Mar 2, 2015, 8:15 AM EST
It has not been a banner loan for the 6-foot Polish-German striker.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:48 AM EST
The transfer gossip out of Spain is that Orlando City is trying to woo the agent for Mario Balotelli.
Mar 1, 2015, 11:10 PM EST
Find out who made the cut as one of the top performers of Round 27 in the Premier League.
Mar 1, 2015, 10:20 PM EST
One of the greatest strikers of all-time says it all starts on defense, something Chelsea proved today in their Capital One triumph.
Mar 1, 2015, 9:09 PM EST
It’s a battle between Liverpool super-strikes for best goal of the week in the Premier League.
Mar 1, 2015, 8:15 PM EST
Catch up on all of Sunday’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.
Mar 1, 2015, 7:17 PM EST
Two goals silenced the critics and got this Manchester man named Premier League Player of the Week.
Mar 1, 2015, 6:33 PM EST
Wes Brown was sent off in the Black Cats’ loss to Manchester United, despite the fact that John O’Shea seemingly committed the foul.
Mar 1, 2015, 5:46 PM EST
Coming off of an ugly midweek loss to Monaco, Arsenal responded perfectly with a 2-0 win over Everton.
Mar 1, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
The Stoke City midfielder needed 12-15 stitches in his calf after taking a challenge that manager Mark Hughes said could have ended his career.
Mar 1, 2015, 4:10 PM EST
The Argentinian winger was subbed out at halftime of Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Sunderland.
- MLS Atlanta makes shrewd hire, bringing in Carlos Bocanegra as technical director 0
- BBC report: Sunderland’s Adam Johnson arrested on suspicion of sex with a 15-year-old girl 2
- Premier League Playback: Why Manchester City are throwing away the title 0
- 2015 MLS season preview: New York City FC 0
- Rumors know no window: Orlando using Kaka to lure Balotelli to MLS 5
- La Liga & Serie A roundup: Draws for Real, Atletico; Salah shines for Fiorentina 0