Sports

February 23, 2024

Lewandowski helping Barcelona cling on in title race

Lewandowski helping Barcelona cling on in title race

Reigning La Liga champions Barcelona’s faltering title defence has been kept just about alive in recent weeks, boosted by Robert Lewandowski’s timely return to form.

The Poland striker endured a dry run of just three goals in 14 appearances heading into the winter break as Barca slipped adrift of league leaders Real Madrid and surprise challengers Girona.

But Lewandowski has netted nine goals in 13 appearances in all competitions since, including five in his last four matches, to help third-placed Barca stay within striking distance of the top.

The Catalan giants could move into second and within five points of Real, who host Sevilla on Sunday, with victory over Getafe on Saturday.

“Robert is ‘plugged in’, it makes me emotional to see the unity in the team,” said coach Xavi Hernandez after Lewandowski’s match-winning brace at Celta Vigo last weekend.

“I am happy for Robert’s goals but also for his hard work.”

The 35-year-old also netted Barcelona’s goal in a 1-1 draw at Napoli in their Champions League last-16 first leg in midweek.

Only Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe has scored more goals than Lewandowski so far in 2024 for a club in one of Europe’s top five leagues.

Madrid have opened up a six-point lead over Girona this month and could stretch that further when they face Sevilla, with Girona not in action until Monday when they take on Rayo Vallecano.

Girona, after back-to-back losses, will be desperate to get back to winning ways against a team who have taken just two points from their last six La Liga outings.

Almeria, still waiting for their first victory of the league season after a record-breaking 25 matches, take on Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico are embroiled in a battle for fourth place and guaranteed Champions League qualification with Athletic Bilbao, sitting two points above the Basque club.

Player to watch: Sergio Ramos (Sevilla)

Sergio Ramos will return to the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since he left Real Madrid in 2021 to join PSG, when he lines up for Sevilla on Sunday.

The veteran defender won five La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues in his 16-year spell at Real, scoring 101 goals in 671 appearances.

Ramos, back at boyhood club Sevilla, says he will not celebrate if he scores.

“I wouldn’t celebrate but if I happen to score and it was enough for us to win I would be delighted, those three points would be very good for us,” Ramos told the La Liga website.

Key stats

2: Girona have suffered more defeats in their last two La Liga games than they had in their other 23 league matches this season.

19: Real Madrid are unbeaten in 19 La Liga matches.

4: Winless Almeria still need four more points to edge past English club Derby’s record for the lowest points tally in a season in one of Europe’s top five leagues.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Real Sociedad v Villarreal (2000)

Saturday

Granada v Valencia (1300), Barcelona v Getafe (1515), Alaves v Real Mallorca (1730), Almeria v Atletico Madrid (2000)

Sunday

Cadiz v Celta Vigo (1300), Real Betis v Athletic Bilbao (1515), Las Palmas v Osasuna (1730), Real Madrid v Sevilla (2000)

Monday

Girona v Rayo Vallecano (2000)