At around 9.45pm CET on Sunday, things were looking very nice indeed for Barça fans. Not only had their team won 2-1 in one of the most difficult fixtures of the season, Atlético away, but Real Madrid were two goals down at Villarreal. As things stood, Barça would be ending the weekend at the top of the Liga table.
Goals shortly after the break from Manuel Trigueros and Cedric Bakambu looked likely to spell Madrid’s second defeat in a row, after they went down 2-1 to Valencia in Wednesday’s re-scheduled fixture. But a Gareth Bale header and a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty got hings back all square and when Alvaro Morata scored the visitors’ third, there were still seven minutes to spare.
So Real Madrid stay top on 55 points with a game in hand, followed by Barça just one point behind and with Sevilla also hot in pursuit with 52 points after they came from behind on Saturday to win the local derby with Betis 2-1.
Barça’s victory against Atlético has as good as ended the diminishing chance of Diego Simeone’s side catching up with the front runners. Seven points adrift of Sevilla, it looks like the rest of season is going to be a head-to-head battle with Real Sociedad for the fourth Champions League berth.
Next up for Barça is a visit from Sporting Gijón on Wednesday 1 March at 7.30pm CET (TICKETS HERE). Luis Enrique’s hometown club picked up a point on Sunday from a 1-1 draw at home to Celta Vigo, but that wasn’t enough to pull them out of the relegation zone. Moi Gomez put Sporting ahead with a 49th minute penalty, but Iago Aspas levelled for Celta just a minute after Jorge Mere had been sent off for the home side. The teenage defender will therefore be suspended for his team’s visit to the Camp Nou.
North of the border, PSG issued an ominous warning to Barça fans dreaming of ‘operation comeback’ on March 8. The Parisians romped to a 5-1 win away to none other than Ligue 1 heavyweights Marseille, with goals from Marquinhos, Edinson Cavani, Lucas Moura, Julian Draxler and Blaise Matuidi.
But none of that has served to bring Barça’s Champions League rivals any closer to leaders Monaco, who had picked up a 2-1 win at Guincamp the day before.