Five talking points from the weekend in La Liga
By Rik Sharma
MADRID, Feb 11 (Reuters) - La Liga leaders Barcelona stumbled to a second consecutive draw in a goalless clash with Athletic Bilbao, while Real Madrid beat Atletico 3-1 in the Madrid derby to go second.
Here are five talking points from the weekend in La Liga:
FEARLESS VINICIUS RIPS UP ATLETICO
Atletico Madrid had conceded just four goals at home all season in La Liga before city rivals Real Madrid came calling on Saturday.
Diego Simeone's side, as defensively solid as ever, were unbeaten at the Wanda Metropolitano in all competitions.
However, an 18-year-old Brazilian changed all that. Vinicius Junior continued his excellent debut season with Real by causing havoc in Atletico's defence.
The forward created a chance for Lucas Vazquez with a brilliant pass and then won a penalty which Sergio Ramos converted for Real's second.
Without the speed and skill of Vinicius, Madrid would have had a hard time unlocking Atletico's defence, which last conceded three in 2016 - to Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid.
TIME'S UP FOR COU
By contrast, Barcelona's Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho is still in the doldrums.
The midfielder was completely invisible against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, with Barcelona desperate for a drop of his magic.
The former Liverpool man and Barcelona's record signing was substituted with 15 minutes to go, replaced by Ousmane Dembele who is back after an ankle injury.
The French winger has been in spectacular form and even though Valverde has stuck with Coutinho in his absence, he now faces a spell on the bench with Dembele available once more.
BALE MARKS MADRID CENTURY FROM BENCH
And for that goal to come against rivals Atletico Madrid in an important derby would have been all the better.
But Bale scored as a substitute to seal the game and even though coach Santiago Solari praised him, it is increasingly clear he is not part of the coach’s starting line-up.
Vinicius, Karim Benzema and Lucas Vazquez are a front three that offer skill and work-rate in equal measure, with Bale’s dynamism and power useful but only in small measures.
With injuries perhaps to blame, Bale has struggled to hold down a place in the Madrid side since Carlo Ancelotti left in 2015.
GETAFE COULD SPRING UCL SURPRISE
La Liga has been viciously unpredictable this season and just 14 points separate Sevilla, fourth, from Rayo Vallecano, 18th, in the relegation zone.
One team who have been reasonably consistent and boast a mean defence only bettered by Atletico Madrid's, is Getafe, in fifth.
Jose Bordalas's well-drilled side are not particularly exciting to watch but they are impressive in their own way.
The Madrid side earned a comfortable 3-1 win over Celta Vigo to make ground on Sevilla, whom they trail by two points.
Founded in 1983, Getafe, whose Coliseum Alfonso Perez ground has rarely been filled in the past decade of top flight football, could find themselves in the Champions League if they continue in this fashion.
BARCA SHUT-OUT ONE YEAR LATER
Lionel Messi had scored in his last eight La Liga matches but he found it impossible at a raucous San Mames.
With Coutinho in poor form and Luis Suarez at his erratic worst, Athletic Bilbao shut out Barcelona, which is no mean feat.
The Catalans had scored in every league match since February 11, 2018, one day short of a year ago. (Reporting by Rik Sharma Editing by Christian Radnedge)