Five things we learned from La Liga

Kieran CANNING
Sevilla's coach Jorge Sampaoli reacts during a Spanish league football match against Real Sporting de Gijon on April 2, 2017

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid kicked off an action-packed April with victory, but there was more pain for Sevilla on La Liga's return to action after a two-week international break.

Here, AFP Sports looks at five things we learned from this weekend.

Uncertainty compounds Sevilla slump

Sevilla's unsettling week was rounded off by a fifth game without a win as Sporting Gijon withstood an onslaught at the Sanchez Pizjuan to escape with a point. Sporting director Monchi's decision to end his 17-year stay truly is the end of the era as he was the architect of the sides that won five UEFA Cups and Europa Leagues over the past decade. Coach Jorge Sampaoli is also likely to leave after just one season in charge with Argentina reportedly set to offer him the chance to salvage their faltering World Cup qualification campaign. All of a sudden a season that promised so much has come apart very quickly.

Koke symbolises Atletico surge

Sevilla's struggles have allowed Atletico to soar back up to third on the back of four straight La Liga wins. Midfielder Koke's form has reflected that of Atletico as a whole as early season inconsistency has been replaced by more clinical displays in the past month. The Spanish international opened the scoring in Saturday's 2-0 win at Malaga and now has two goals and three assists in his last six league outings.

Neymar becomes Barca centurion

In the absence of the suspended Lionel Messi, Neymar's underlined his growing status within the Barcelona team by registering his 100th goal for the club in a 4-1 romp at Granada. The Brazilian has taken just 176 games to reach his century despite being much more of a provider for Messi and Luis Suarez this season. Indeed, he also has 76 assists since joining from Santos in a murky transfer nearly four years ago.

Madrid, Barca wins come at a cost

Spain's big two began a jam-packed April with nine games each including Champions League quarter-finals and El Clasico in three weeks' time with comfortable wins. However, victories came at a cost as Madrid defender Raphael Varane suffered the recurrence of a hamstring problem, whilst Barca midfielder Rafinha's season could be over after limping off with a meniscus injury. At a time of the season when even their squads will be stretched to the limit, Varane and Rafinha could prove significant absentees in the coming weeks.

Race for Europa League tightens

Real Sociedad and Villarreal's faltering form has allowed Atletico and Sevilla to seemingly sew up the Champions League places alongside Madrid and Barcelona. However, it has set up a scramble for the Europa League places with fifth and ninth separated by just five points. Fifth, sixth and seventh -- should Barca beat Alaves in the Copa del Rey final -- will be good enough for a place in Europe next season.