LaLiga’s last dance before the World Cup ended with Sevilla being tapped on the shoulder and sent into the bottom three and the Basque clubs Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad invited into the Champions League places.
Barcelona are looking down on Real Madrid, and Diego Simeone is looking lost as Atletico Madrid continue to struggle in their worst season since he took over.
The midweek round of matches brought one of the goals of the season from Toni Kroos and one of the misses of the season from Luka Modric.
And the reds cards continued with Sevilla left playing with nine men for an hour.
Here, Sportsmail’s Pete Jenson runs you through the 10 things we learned from LaLiga’s final round of matches before Qatar.
Barcelona lead the way ahead of rivals Real Madrid as the season breaks for the World Cup
We will miss Toni Kroos at the World Cup
When Madrid fell to their first defeat in the league in the last round of matches Toni Kroos had been rested. He was back on Thursday and he scored a scorcher and set up another. Having retired in 2021 he won’t be in Qatar and his seemingly effortless brilliance will be sorely missed.
VAR what is it good for?
If VAR is worth the stadium confusion and the 10 minutes of added time and the pause while teams wait to see if their goal has stood, then it’s because players can’t get away with off the ball assaults any more.
So what happened on Thursday when Fali thumped Rodrygo and got away with it in Madrid’s win over Cadiz? Maybe the video-assisted referee never received the right images: maybe he was having a sandwich. Fali stayed on and then Vinicius was booked for sticking up for his Brazilian pal.
What is VAR good for? The officials missed Fali’s thumping of Rodrygo then failed to use the tech to rectify their error
Too many reds ruin football
Carlo Ancelotti put it best on Thursday: ‘Be careful with the red cards because it’s not football match when it’s nine against 11’. It was nine against 11 for an hour in the game between Sevilla and Real Sociedad.
There have been 55 reds in Spain so far; 11 in the Premier League. Too many challenges look horrific when slowed down or frozen on the pitchside monitor and the man in the middle often no longer decides – the three cards in the Seville derby recently were all given by VAR.
Carlo Ancelotti urged the officials to be careful with red cards with 55 having been dished out already in the league
This Atletico is Simeone’s worst ever – but he’s going nowhere
They have never had so few points at this stage of the season under the Argentine coach and they were woeful again in defeat by Mallorca.
They will be out of the Champions League places for the duration of the World Cup break. But captain Koke said afterwards he had ‘zero doubts’ over the manager.
Simeone will not walk away. They cannot afford to pay him off. And with a decent transfer window they could still save their season having only two competitions to play for but it looks grim for now.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side have made the worst start to a season out of any of his teams at the club
Crisis clubs must sign centre-backs in January
Atletico Madrid are in the state they are in, partly because Diego Simeone asked for a centre-back in the summer and the club never signed one.
Similarly, Sevilla are in the mire because Monchi’s attempt at replacing Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde was a disaster with Marcao permanently injured and Tanguy Nianzou still raw.
Both these clubs need to sign a central defender in January or Sevilla could go down and Atletico could be out of Europe.
Sevilla supporters should be proud
They were reduced to nine men half an hour into their game with Real Sociedad and they were 1-0 down.
An almost full Sanchez Pizjuan stadium stayed with he team and the wall of noise saw them score before the break and almost grab a late second half equaliser.
They can’t blame the coach because he’s only just turned up but they could still have turned on the players and chose not to.
Their team is firmly in the mire having dropped into the bottom three but Sevilla supporters should be proud of how they stuck with them
Players are running on empty
The players are knackered. Sevilla were playing their 12th game in 40 days this week and their rivals Real Sociedad had played 12 times in 39 days. That might explain why even against nine men they played at pre-match warm-up pace. The World Cup, even for those that go, will drastically reduce game time and the players need it.
You are never too old to make a ‘schoolboy’ error
Robert Lewandowski has played over 800 games in Spain, Germany and Poland. Last summer he turned 34.
That didn’t stop him being wound up by Osasuna defender David Garcia on Tuesday. He forgot about VAR. He forgot about the multiple cameras in the ground. And he forgot he was on a yellow.
As the ball dropped out of the sky he only had eyes for the defender and, leading with his forearm, he went for Garcia. His sending off could have cost Barcelona dearly, as it was they still came away winners. He has been their saviour so often so far this season but for once they won in spite of him not because of him.
Even 34-year-olds are capable of monumental errors of judgement – as Robert Lewandowski displayed against Osasuna
Raphinha has finally arrived
Many a great player has flopped at Barcelona and Raphinha had made an underwhelming start. Since the Clasico he has not started a league game but his assist earned Barcelona a win at Valencia two weeks back, and on Tuesday his header made sure Barca won to stay top of LaLiga. He is starting to become decisive.
De Jong can be a Barca leader
The pass from that Raphinha goal was from Frenkie de Jong and both that assist and his performance in centre defence was reminiscent of Ronald Koeman. Reduced to ten men by Lewandowski’s sending off Barcelona needed leaders and he stood up to show that is what he can be over the coming years. Manchester United couldn’t convince him to join them in the summer. They would now struggle to convince Barca to sell him.
Frenkie de Jong’s Koeman-like display showed Xavi that he can be a leader for Barcelona