They are there by virtue of their better head-to-head record against co-leaders Real Madrid, who survived a scare to beat Valencia in a game that kicked off four and a half hours earlier. Cristiano Ronaldo headed the all-whites into a first half lead, and had also missed a penalty before a Daniel Parejo free kick on 82 minutes put the sides back level.
But Marcelo responded with a fine finish four minutes later, meaning that the top two are now tied on 81 points, but Real Madrid do have a game in hand on the Catalans.
Barcelona are in action next at the Camp Nou on Saturday at 6.30pm CET against Villarreal (tickets here), who beat Sporting Gijón 3-1 in Friday night’s game thanks to goals from Roberto Soldado and Congolese striker Cédric Bakambu. It’s a win that keeps alive Villarreal’s chances of clinching a Champions League berth next season, although a Europa League slot is probably the more realistic prospect.
Sporting pulled a late goal back through Douglas, on loan from Barça, but that was scant consolation for a side that is moving closer and closer to second division football next term.
Moments after Barça’s game with Villarreal, Real Madrid will be in action away to Granada, a side that was condemned to relegation on Saturday after going down 2-1 at Real Sociedad.