Is LaLiga title race back on?
After Barça picking up just one point from a possible nine, the gap has narrowed to just three points ahead of Atletico. Is the title race alive?
As was in the case during the 2014/15 campaign Barcelona fell to a 1-0 defeat in Anoeta last night and with five defeats in their last six visits the Catalan club must be feeling that a jinx hangs over visits to San Sebastian. Luis Enrique's men have now only picked up one point from the last nine available and have seen their lead at the top of the table reduced to just three points as six rounds of games remain in the current race for the title.
In week 30 Villarreal came from behind to draw with Barcelona 2-2 whilst Real Madrid saw off Sevilla 4-0 at the Bernabeu. It was also the weekend that may analysts ruled Atletico out of the title race after Cholo's men fell 2-1 to Sporting Gijon. How costly may that loss prove to be come the end of the season? The following week (Jornada 31) Barça lost for the first time in 39 games falling at home to Madrid (1-2) in 'El Clasico' whilst Atleti destroyed Real Betis at the Calderon 5-1.
Both Madrid and Atletico played ahead of Barça last night with Madrid dispatching Eibar in a comfortable 4-0 win whilst Atleti came from behind to beat Espanyol 1-3 at the RCDE Stadium. A fifth minute goal from 18 year old Oyarzabal was enough to condemn Barça to their second straight defeat to cut their lead at the top of the table to 3 points ahead of Simenes's side and four points ahead of Real Madrid..
Is the title race really alive? The answer to that question potentially lies in the week ahead. All three challengers are involved in finely balanced Champions League quarter final ties with Atletico and Barcelona going head to head on Wednesday at the Calderon after a tense 2-1 home win for Barça at Camp Nou. Elimination for either side would be a major blow but it would allow the loser to concentrate 100% on the league challenge without the drain and pressure that a semi-final in Europe's biggest competition implies. Barça were clearly tired in Anoeta after the psychical and emotional exertions that last Saturday and Wednesday's games provoked.
The run in on paper at least would favour Atleti with four of their six remaining games at home. Jornada 34 sees the side from the Calderon travelling to San Mames for their most difficult outstanding fixture against Athletic Bilbao. Barcelona's run-in is by no means complicated with trips to Betis and Deportivo being the games where the current league holders could potentially come unstuck. Real Madrid have the trickiest schedule of the three hopefuls.
One key factor playing in favour of Barcelona is their superior head-to.head over both Madrid sides. If sides are tied in LaLiga come season end, head-to.head rather than goal difference is the metric used to determine placings with Barça ultimately topping Atleti from the 2-1 results at the Calderon and Camp Nou and a 5-2 head to head win over Madrid. The "Hay Liga" (the league is on) headline writers have been out in force this morning and it's true that in 3 series of games, Luis Enrique have seen their lead cut back to just three points but should have enough in reserve to make it over the line.
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