Barcelona are a significant step closer to completing a historic season in La Liga. Ernesto Valverde’s side were crowned champions after beating Deportivo La Coruna 4-2 at Riazor last weekend and remain unbeaten following a dramatic and ill-tempered 2-2 draw with Real Madrid on Sunday.
The Catalans twice went ahead, firstly through Luis Suarez and later thanks to Lionel Messi, the Argentine’s super strike looking like the winner as Barca dominated the second half despite being a man down.
It was not a perfect 10 in the end, but it was near enough. Brave Barca were pegged back by a superb strike somewhat out of the blue from Gareth Bale, but they hung on despite their numerical disadvantage to maintain their invincible record in the Primera Division and show that they are Spain’s best.
This was a game fuelled by controversy, even before kick-off. There was no guard of honour for the champions from Real as Los Blancos believed they had been snubbed by Barca after winning the Club World Cup in December.
Three of Madrid’s back four then picked up yellow cards in an volatile first half, in which even Messi received a booking for a rash tackle and Bale was fortunate not to see red for a cynical challenge on Samuel Umtiti.
Moments after that, Sergi Roberto was sent off for lashing out at Marcelo and the game was totally out of control as the two teams went in at the break.
Barca had been dominant early on, but after Cristiano Ronaldo’s equaliser, Los Blancos were on top and Zinedine Zidane’s side seemed set to take advantage in the second half with an extra player.
However, Madrid lost their way without Ronaldo (who was taken off due to an injury he sustained when he scored) and Barca created more chances. When they went ahead, though, there was yet more controversy as Suarez clearly fouled Raphael Varane in the build-up to Messi’s fantastic finish and again after that when the home side thought they were 3-1 up, only for Ivan Rakitic to be incorrectly ruled offside.
No side since the 1930s (when the league championship was much shorter) has finished a season unbeaten in Spain and Barca are now on the brink of that achievement, with just three games left to play in the Primera Division.
Valverde’s side play Villarrreal at home, Levante away and Real Sociedad back at Camp Nou in their final three fixtures of a season which should go down in history – whatever Real Madrid achieve in the Champions League final against Liverpool later this month.