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La Liga: Real Madrid’s lead leaves Barcelona fighting for honour

José Mourinho’s team now has a 10-point advantage at the top of the league, surely too much for Pep Guardiola’s European champions to overhaul.

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Real Madrid's players celebrate another goal against Levante. Photo: Real Madrid.

Barcelona must keep fighting, said Dani Alves on Monday, “it’s a question of honour, of prestige” – but most likely no longer a question of the Liga title. Mid-February is perhaps too early for the race for top spot to be over, and of course it isn’t yet, but the 10-point gap that separates Real Madrid from the reigning European and Spanish champions now seems too big for Barça to close.

Following a defeat to city rivals Espanyol on their return to action after the winter break, Pep Guardiola repeatedly stated his side could no longer afford to slip up. Their margin of error was gone but still they dropped points, away against Villarreal, and this weekend in Pamplona.

In freezing conditions, Osasuna’s Dejan Lekić struck twice inside the first 22 minutes and the Catalans could not react in time. Alexis Sánchez pulled one back for the visitors early in the second half but Raúl García quickly restored Osasuna’s advantage. Barça youngster Cristian Tello grabbed a second in the 73rd minute but a late push for an equaliser proved futile.

The Blaugrana celebrated reaching another Copa del Rey final last week and it was perhaps with one eye on another cup competition – the Champions League which returns today – that Guardiola decided to leave Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas on the bench when the game started.

But Barça have struggled on the road all season, dropping 16 points away from the Camp Nou. Injuries to Xavi, Iniesta, Alexis, Carles Puyol and David Villa have no doubt taken their toll on the small squad Guardiola has at his disposal. Worryingly, even Fifa Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has struggled this season, netting only four times away from home with three of those goals coming from a hat-trick at Málaga.

The league “is going to be a long battle” said Gerard Piqué last week, referring to the pressure Barça would heap on Madrid, but it seems the next few months will be even longer for his side as Los Merengues simply look too strong at the moment.

Going head-to-head in Clásicos does not work out well for Madrid, but against other opposition, despite often going behind early in the game, Mourinho’s men look unstoppable. Saturday was no exception, as a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick – his sixth of the season – inspired Madrid to a 4-2 victory over Levante as his team came from behind, leaving the Santiago Bernabéu faithful singing his name.

Elsewhere, Michel’s debut as Sevilla coach got off to a bad start following a 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad at the Anoeta. Carlos Vela – on loan from Arsenal  – opened the scoring in the 65th minute before Rubén Pardo struck three minutes later. The latest loss means the Andalusians have taken only two points from their last eight games and are three points from the relegation zone.

Atlético Madrid were left to rue missed opportunities as they were the better side but missed a host of opportunities as Racing Santander clung on to claim a point at El Sardinero.

Villarreal climbed out of the drop zone with a hard-fought 3-1 win over fellow strugglers Granada at El Madrigal, while bottom of the table Reál Zaragoza managed their first win since October with a surprise 2-0 victory at Espanyol. It was Paulo da Silva who broke the deadlock after the restart before Juan Carlos secured all three points with a second goal in stoppage time.





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2 Comments for “La Liga: Real Madrid’s lead leaves Barcelona fighting for honour”

  1. The win by Real, coupled with the lost to Barcelona has moved Real Madrid to #1 in the world the week – http://www.footballclubrankings.com/2012/02/football-club-rankings-2-13-12/

  2. i knew it realmadrid wont disapoint me,
    now see the barcelonas crying. Hahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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