When FC Barcelona's players climb into bed tonight, they'll snooze away as leaders of La Liga. And they won't be dreaming. They'll be recalling vivid images from Sunday's authoritative 6–1 rout of Rayo Vallecanothat, combined Real Madrid's 1–0 Saturday afternoon setback at the new San Mamés, catapulted the Luis Enrique's Catalan contingent to the peak of the league standings 16 weeks later. The blaugrana machine haven't led since before week 10, when Celta strutted into Camp Nou and stole three oh-so-valuable points.
Now, four months later, FC Barcelona are back in the driver's seat. It will be the ninth week this season that they've been number one. Previously, they were top dog from weeks one through four and from weeks six through nine.
Barça's recent assault on the summit began in earnest back in January. After coming up short in Anoeta, they've taken 24 of a possible 27 points. In contrast with Real Madrid, Barça have only been flummoxed once since then – a 1–0 mishap against Málaga at Camp Nou.
For Barça and Madrid, there has been a reversal of roles of sorts over the past several weeks. Madrid have only bagged seven of their last 15 points in play, while Barça have pocketed 12 of 15. Madrid's spiral has included a 4–0 catastrophe at the Calderón, a 1–1 stalemate with Villarreal at the Bernabéu, and Saturday's debacle in Bilbao. Barça lay in waiting for El Clásico on 22 March at Camp Nou. Will that match be the difference-maker?