Real Madrid dropped two points in the race for the La Liga title, being held to a 1-1 draw away to Rayo Vallecano.
La Liga goes into the final international break of the year with Girona as the surprise leader of the classification, while FC Barcelona is struggling for form, and at the bottom, Almeria looked doomed to relegation.
Here’s a look at four things we learned from Matchday 13 in Spain:
1. Girona at top and they deserve it
Once again Girona provided a hefty slice of entertainment as they came back from a goal down to win 2-1 away to Rayo Vallecano, reports Xinhua.
“They are the best team I have seen in a long time,” commented Rayo coach Francisco after a game which saw both sides also hit the woodwork.
Since the start of the season, everyone has waited for Michel Sanchez’s side to show signs of running out of steam, but apart from the defeat to Real Madrid there have been no signs of weakness and so Girona has to be seen as a title contender.
Winning the title against sides with far superior budgets would be arguably the greatest achievement by any team ever in Spain and is probably beyond them, but with 34 points from 13 games, with only a third of the season completed, Girona is about halfway to assure a place in next season’s Champions League and that would also be incredible.
2. Barca grinds out win
FC Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez was tetchy and bad-tempered in his press conference following their 2-1 win at home to Alaves. Xavi talked about the “pressure” at the club and seemed to blame the press for his side’s dreadful first-half performance before Robert Lewandowski saved the day with two goals after the break.
His opposite number Luis Garcia was left to lament several missed chances by striker, Samu, who may have put Alaves ahead in the first minute, but should have gone in at the break with a hat-trick.
“We aren’t playing well because of the criticism from the press,” said Xavi.
3. Griezmann leads from the front
Antoine Griezmann made a bit of Atletico Madrid history on Sunday when he scored his 169th goal for the club, to become the second-highest scorer in the club’s history, with only Luis Aragones with 174 goals ahead of him.
Griezmann looks destined to break Aragones’ record in the coming weeks, but it is not just his goals that are so valuable for Atletico.
The Frenchman provided the assist for Axel Witsel’s equalizer on the stroke of halftime as Atletico came from behind to win 3-1 at home to Villarreal, while his hard work in closing down rivals makes him Atletico’s first line of defense.
No wonder Griezmann hinted post-game that after Diego Simeone’s new contract, he should be next in line.
4. Almeria going down
Gaizka Garitano has been in charge at Almeria for four games, which has ended in a 5-2 defeat in Girona (after leading 2-0), a 2-1 defeat at home to Las Palmas, who scored a 94th-minute winner, a 1-0 defeat away to Alaves and a 3-1 home defeat to Real Sociedad after conceding two more injury time goals.
Almeria has improved slightly under the guidance of the former Eibar and Athletic Club Bilbao coach, but with just 3 points from 13 games and a weak squad after continually selling their best players, they look doomed to relegation.
It’s hard to think that when he resigned in his press conference after the last game of last season, former Almeria coach, Joan Ferrer, had already seen the writing on the wall.