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Five things we learned in La Liga this weekend

1. Madrid deserve to be top for winter break

Even after winning 20 games on the bounce in all competitions -- including 13 in La Liga -- Real Madrid were in danger of not spending Christmas top of the table. Friday night's 4-1 win at Almeria, which was trickier than the final scoreline suggests, was their last La Liga action of 2014 due to the World Club Cup. So two wins for Barcelona in their final two games of the year would have put the Catalan side ahead (albeit with one more game played).

But Barca's eight-game winning streak shuddered to a halt in Saturday's grim goalless game at Getafe. Then on Sunday night Atletico Madrid's latest run of consecutive La Liga victories ended on four, with Villarreal deserving winners at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.

Madrid now have a four-point lead on Barca, with Atletico a further three points behind in the standings. For months Carlo Ancelotti's side had been playing really, really well, but not pulled clear of their challengers. The weekend's results have given the table a much more realistic look -- as Los Blancos have been by far the best team in Spain (and Europe?) so far this term.

2. San Iker could be back

A few months ago it seemed Iker Casillas' career was in terminal decline. Horror show mistakes in last season's Champions League final, and then last summer's World Cup for Spain, seemed to spell the end to what has been a fine career.

Goals which were not really his fault, from set-pieces especially, were being put down to a general lack of surety at the back. After yet another costly error in Spain's 2-1 Euro 2016 qualifier loss against Slovakia back in early October, most onlookers were sure that "San Iker" was on his way out.

However, since that night in Zilina, Casillas has hardly put a foot (or a hand) wrong. In 10 games for club and country he has conceded just three goals -- none of which were in any way his fault. Playing in such a dominant team has of course helped, but the 33-year-old's confidence does seem now to have been repaired.

Friday's excellent penalty save from Almeria's Verza came at a crucial moment in the game with Madrid 2-1 up but looking tired and in danger of slipping up. But Madrid's keeper and captain came to the rescue -- and "San Iker" just might have his angel back.

3. Does Luis Enrique know what he wants?

It still very hard to know just how Luis Enrique wants his Barcelona team to play. In his first six months as Blaugrana coach, the former Barca and Madrid player has talked a lot to reporters about making his team less predictable and more difficult to defend against, but generally avoided responding when asked to describe how he would like his team to play.

There was again little evidence of any coherent plan as Barca drew 0-0 at Getafe on Saturday. It is clear that patiently building play through short passing in midfield, so prominent during Pep Guardiola's time in charge, is no longer the main idea. But there are very few signs of a new philosophy to replace it.

Games have been decided by individual moments of genius from Lionel Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez, but there is little feeling of a new team being built. With Neymar injured, Suarez looking short on confidence, and Messi again hitting the woodwork on Saturday, a patched-up Getafe defence was actually pretty comfortable for long periods.

In his 113 days in charge, Luis Enrique has played 22 games, and picked 22 different teams. He keeps saying that the idea is to keep everyone -- his own players and opposition coaches -- on their toes by changing things up so often. But at the moment it seems the coach is more confused than anybody.

Luciano Vietto scored an 84th-minute winner for Villarreal at Atletico Madrid.

4. Marcelino deserves the plaudits

Despite complaints about Mario Mandzukic's disallowed goal for Atletico Madrid on Sunday night, Villarreal really did deserve to become the first visiting team to win at the Estadio Vicente Calderon in any competition in over 18 months.

Luciano Vietto's excellent winning strike came just five minutes from the end, but this was not a lucky away win. The visitors actually had the best chances in the game, and would have been ahead earlier had Vietto or Denis Cheryshev taken any of a number of other clear-cut opportunities.

A lot of the credit for the win should go to Marcelino Garcia Toral, Villarreal's quietly impressive coach. Despite missing best centre-back Mateo Musacchio, and having two days less rest following their European exertions, his side snuffed out Atletico's attack pretty easily. The excellent on-pitch organisation even extended to dealing well with Los Colchoneros' fearsome set-piece machine.

"This group of players deserved a win like this, against a big team," Marcelino said afterwards. Their coach deserves the plaudits too.

Carlos Vela could do with support in the Real Sociedad attack.

5. Moyes needs more goalscorers

Five games into his tenure as Real Sociedad coach, David Moyes has seen only one of his players score a goal.

Carlos Vela scored La Real's goal in Sunday's 1-1 Basque derby draw at home to Athletic Bilbao, and the Mexico international also got all three in the 3-0 win over Elche two weeks back. The team have been making chances -- they had 14 shots against Athletic -- but, Vela aside, the Txuri-urdin attackers look short on confidence and accuracy.

Sergio Canales hit the crossbar late on Sunday night with a fine free kick, but also knocked a weak volley straight at Athletic keeper Gorka Iraizoz from six yards out. Currently injured centre-forward Imanol Agirretxe has just two goals in 13 appearance this season. Alfred Finnbogason scored 59 goals in 69 games in his last two seasons at Heerenveen, but has yet to find the net since his summer move. The Iceland international had four attempts on Sunday night, and zero on target.

Moyes has been careful not to speak about potential January transfer window targets, but surely someone to share the goalscoring burden with Vela is a top priority.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan


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