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Isco keeps Madrid in title hunt, Messi the main man, Adams loses at Granada

Here are five things from a weekend of La Liga action in which Isco inspired another late Real Madrid win, Lionel Messi kept Barcelona in the title race and Tony Adams got off to a tough start at Granada.

1. Isco's perfect timing

Real Madrid kept control of the title race with their latest comeback win, as they turned around a 2-1 deficit at Sporting Gijon to win 3-2.

The match-winner was Isco, who scored two fine goals in a sparkling performance in midfield. The second, in the 90th minute, was especially sweet, as the Andalusian shaped to curl a 20-yarder to the far post but instead cut his shot back through the legs of his marker to totally surprise Sporting goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar.

It was the goal of a top-class player, and led to a barrage of questions postmatch from local reporters, who asked whether Zinedine Zidane had been unfair to leave the Spain international on the bench so often.

Zidane -- who left Cristiano Ronaldo at home with the Champions League on his mind -- took them in his stride, praising Isco's performance but pointing out he has so many top players that he cannot pick them all each week.

Gareth Bale's calf injury means Isco will hope to feature in Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Bayern Munich and El Clasico next Sunday.

2. All about Messi again

The sense that only Lionel Messi can deny Madrid a first league title in five years was strengthened as he scored twice and made the other for the improving Paco Alcacer in Barcelona's 3-2 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday evening.

Sociedad had lost all 16 previous visits to the Camp Nou, but they had more shots on goal than Barca during a helter-skelter first 45 minutes and could easily have been ahead at the break. The hosts tightened things up in the second half and just about saw out the victory to remain three points behind Madrid, albeit with a game extra played.

Messi has 29 La Liga goals this season, five ahead of teammate Luis Suarez in second place in the Pichichi top-scorer race, with Cristiano Ronaldo back in third on 19. Messi's goals have won more points than any other player in La Liga this season (17).

Despite a sense that Barca's season is drifting out of control both in Europe and at home, a win at the Bernabeu next week in the Clasico will put Luis Enrique's team top of the table. Any hopes for that realistically lie with their No. 10.

3. Carrasco steps up

Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco struck a double as his team kept their hold on third by easily seeing off bottom team Osasuna 3-0 at the Calderon on Saturday afternoon.

With thoughts on the Champions League and Leicester, coach Diego Simeone rested Antoine Griezmann, Koke, Saul and Gabi, leaving Carrasco as the only guaranteed regular starter in either attack or midfield.

And the Belgium international showed his class by opening the scoring near the half-hour mark with a trademark driving run and low shot inside the post. His second goal just after halftime showed another part of his game, as he met a curling Nico Gaitan cross to power in a back post header.

Carrasco has had a strange season, starting on fire but then slumping through the winter amid speculation of a strained relationship with Simeone. But he is back in form again. Even with his late penalty saved by Osasuna goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, his 14 goals this season across all competitions is more than any other Spain-based midfielder.

Things have turned sour for Jorge Sampaoli at Sevilla.

4. Sampaoli to leave Sevilla on a low

Jorge Sampaoli's roller-coaster spell at Sevilla looks set to end, and a bitter breakup could wipe out all the excitement of last autumn.

Sampaoli was popular at the Sanchez Pizjuan through the first six months of the season, as his team challenged at the top of the La Liga table and also impressed in the Champions League. But the European exit to Leicester, as well as a slide domestically, has seen his stock fall dramatically.

Sunday's low-key 0-0 draw at Valencia was noteworthy for Sampaoli again leaving Stevan Jovetic on the bench, and an injury to the team's key winger Vitolo. Sevilla have won just one of their past eight games, and their hold on fourth spot is only secure at the moment due to inconsistency among the teams below them.

It seems all but certain that Sampaoli will leave to take the Argentina job this summer, and despite some protests from Sevilla president Jose Castro to the contrary, both parties will be happy enough to leave it at that.

5. Adams not going to save Granada

Tony Adams' first game as interim Granada coach ended in a 3-0 home defeat against a Celta Vigo side distracted by the Europa League.

Adams took over last week, promising to give Granada's under-performing players a "kick up the arse," and then appeared to use a high-tempo, interpretative-dance training routine to bypass the language barrier between him and most of the squad.

A first home game against a Celta Vigo team, who rested almost their entire first XI due to Europa League commitments, seemed ideal for a fresh start. But Granada were never really in the game and are now seven points from safety with just six games left.

Adams has more or less admitted his main job will be to restructure the club to bounce back up next season, when somebody else will be coach.

Asked about chants against the club's owner Jiang Lizhang during Saturday's game, the ex-Arsenal and England captain accepted there was no quick fix for the club's problems.

"I don't expect fans to be happy with the situation, I am not, the owner is not," Adams said. "The Spanish league is very difficult, I think it is the best league in the world, but don't tell the English people that. The future is bright here. I'm an honest man, I've never lied in my life, and we're going to build a football club here, it just takes a bit of time."

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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