Barça Back From Oblivion in La Liga Race

Barcelona looked all but out of the La Liga title race, but now all of a sudden it's back in their hands again. Supporters at the Camp Nou won't tolerate another balls-up...

Last Updated: 09/05/14 at 09:37 Post Comment

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In the previous dispatch of witterings by this column, it may have given the impression that Barcelona were a team of dithering tools who had thrown the title away in the last seconds with a late goal conceded against Getafe.

'Plain stupid' were the exact words in fact. Heck, even the Barcelona players were donking themselves on the head with frying pans, Sergi Busquets decrying that they were not worthy of La Primera.

Well, things have changed a little without the Barcelona players having to lift a finger. Indeed, the team are arguably in the driving seat in terms of winning La Liga with two matches left, again without having to move from the sofa. Real Madrid screwed up royally on Wednesday night with a 1-1 draw at Valladolid, to follow the weekend draw against Valencia. This was the side that was potentially going to get in the way of Barcelona's path to the title, even if the Catalan club were to go ahead and beat Atlético on the final day of the season.

Although Cristiano Ronaldo left the pitch in the opening minutes with a muscle strain, Real Madrid took the lead with a free kick from Sergio Ramos. They then failed to find a second and allowed Valladolid to sneak in a late equaliser from a corner. The guilt for the double disaster was laid at the evil feet of over-chilling before the footballing job was done. "I have the feeling that we suffered from the sin of relaxing," complained Ramos.

Now Barcelona fans are not sure where to turn. Footballers who were being lambasted for being lazy and uncaring may well be heralded as title winners. As one perplexed old geezer said on the streets of Barcelona, shaking his head, "Xavi himself said it was all over." Indeed, the Sporting Director, Andoni Zubizarreta, travelled to Galicia to the house of former player and current Celta Vigo coach, Luis Enrique, reportedly to discuss taking over from Tata Martino in the summer.

The situation that Barça find themselves in is that if they win the next two games - away at Elche and home to Atlético - then the Primera title will be retained. "If we don't win the league, then it will be disaster," admitted Dani Alves, "we've been getting too many chances." It is an attitude mirrored by some supporters as well, who would not begrudge Atlético Madrid winning the title, should that eventuality arise. "Madrid gave Barcelona the gift of the year," wrote Johan Vehils in 'Sport'. "If they don't take advantage of it, then it's enough to finish them off."

Of course, Atlético Madrid - three points ahead of Barça - are in the same situation. In fact, two draws would be enough to win the title, as the second of those would be against Barcelona. For this reason, all three sides are playing at the same time on Sunday evening.

The Rojiblancos are in action at home to Málaga, a side lead by former player (and Real Madrid manager) Bernd Schuster, rumoured to be leaving the club just one troubled season into a five-year deal. A win for Atlético and anything less than a victory for Barcelona away at Elche and the party of all times past and to come will be kicked off in the Spanish capital.

Although the Barcelona players will be vowing not to let another chance to win the title slip away, Elche away is the kind of fixture in which where Barça have struggled, this season, as points dropped against Levante and Granada in recent times will testify.

Elche are not yet safe from relegation and are robust enough to give Barça a bit of a game. Another robust team will then be waiting around the corner, the same one that held Barça to 1-1 draw at the beginning of April to knock Barça out of the Champions League.

The Catalan club have been handed a huge lifeline. Their fans won't tolerate their players blowing it all over again.

Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter

I'm so ridiculously excited by the Barca v Atletico Madrid game that I've even got an expensive-ish bottle of Tempranillo ready for it and started a flamenco-ish playlist on Spotify.
- tk421

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