By Rik Sharma
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Champions Barcelona lost 2-0 at Celta Vigo while Getafe earned an important 2-0 win over Girona in their bid to secure Champions League qualification.
Here are five talking points from the weekend’s La Liga action.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde made 11 changes from the team that beat Liverpool 3-0 in the Champions League semi-final first leg, but still suffered an injury blow as his team lost to Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Ousmane Dembele pulled up with a hamstring problem early in the game and the French winger will miss the second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday and is a doubt for the Copa del Rey final and a potential Champions League final.
The 21-year-old’s talent is unquestionable but his constant injuries are a concern.
“If that happens once it could be bad luck. Twice, it could be really bad luck. But when it happens four times in a periodic way, it means there’s a concrete cause that Barca don’t know how to tackle,” wrote Barcelona=based newspaper Diario Sport.
The final few games of the season for Real Madrid have been about Zinedine Zidane assessing his squad and planning for the next campaign.
Mariano Diaz and Brahim Diaz gave the French coach something to think about in the win over Villarreal on Sunday.
The former netted twice and insisted he would like to stay at the club next season.
“I don’t have a crystal ball but I want to stay,” said Mariano. “I am very happy and let’s see what happens going forward.”
Brahim was bright too, as was Vinicius Junior, who made his return from injury after a two-month layoff.
Those three players may be the green shoots which grow out from the rubble of a disastrous season for the European champions.
TWODOWN, ONE TO GO
La Liga’s relegation battle runs on and on but finally two places were settled.
Rayo Vallecano were sent down on Sunday after Real Valladolid beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 while Huesca swiftly followed them, suffering a savage 6-2 home defeat by Valencia.
With two games left there are still five teams who could go down, although Celta Vigo, Villarreal and Levante have impressed in recent weeks and should avoid the drop.
Girona fell into the relegation zone on Sunday after Valladolid won and they lost and Eusebio Sacristan’s side seem most likely to go down.
GETAFE ON THECUSP
Jose Bordalas’s well-drilled Getafe side earned another straightforward win at the weekend and are now four points from sealing qualification for next season’s Champions League.
The tiny Madrid club, who have the third lowest attendance in La Liga, were playing in the second division three seasons ago and are keeping Valencia and Sevilla at arm’s length.
“It was unthinkable that Getafe would fight to get into Europe,” said Bordalas, upon hearing his team were guaranteed at least a Europa League spot. “We have to enjoy that, although there are two games to go.”
Although relegation is not a worry for Real Betis, they have won just one of their last nine La Liga matches and their form has had fans clamouring for coach Quique Setien to be sacked.
He was linked with the Barcelona job before Ernesto Valverde signed on again, but that was when Betis were flying high and from being in contention for a top four finish they have slumped to 13th.
Watching on at Ipurua as Eibar beat Betis 1-0 on Sunday was Julen Lopetegui, formerly of Spain and Real Madrid, who some have speculated may be the man to replace Setien.
(Reporting by Rik Sharma, editing by Ed Osmond)