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Barcelona win but give hope to the chasing pack


Barcelona finished the day nine points ahead of Atleti and ten ahead of Madrid but gifted both a glimmer of hope. When certain starters are missing they don’t look quite as steady. Yesterday we saw them take the field without either Piqué or Busquets and they won thanks only to their forward line and a touch of luck. For a large part of the game they were at the mercy of a good-looking Las Palmas side. They’re a team with a lot of home-grown Canarian players, they look good on the ball… but they lack teeth upfront. Barcelona didn’t run away with the game. They struggled to get the ball to the players up top. Having said that, when they do manage it things always happen; they look threatening, they score. There’s a lot of talent in the side.

Who knows if the title race is still open? If Barcelona are hit by injuries they’ll drop points. They played almost the entire second half of last season with the same players but it remains to be seen whether that will be possible again this year. Take out Pique, Mascherano, Jordi Alba and the three beasts upfront and the replacements are definitely a step down. I don’t include Iniesta, Alves or Rakitic as their stand-ins, Arda, Aleix and Sergi Roberto, are quality players. The squads of the two chasing teams are deeper and their replacements stronger, especially Madrid. Barcelona have a commanding lead but they could well drop points.

Real Madrid, in turn, can’t afford to lose any more games. The squad travelled to Malaga without Benzema, decimating the BBC and leaving only a C, Cristiano, who continues to be the key. Zidane has tried to motivate Isco, who returns to his hometown this afternoon, to get more goals out of him. I like how the coach handles himself in press conferences, calmly and with clear messages. He doesn’t say it openly but every league game is like a final now. Other things, like the lack of goals from Isco, are secondary concerns. Atleti also play a final every week, but that’s nothing new. It’s always been like that: they take things game by game and give their all. Today against Villarreal will be no different.