Having spent the past few weeks claiming his side had no chance of winning the Liga title, it will be interesting to see what response Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola provides when the question is next posed to him. But then, five games ago, Real Madrid held a 10-point lead at the top of the table and Barça was only beginning to find its form again after dropping points at Osasuna and Villarreal.
A large step on the champion’s path to what has now become a nine-match winning streak was a 5-1 demolition of Valencia, a team that had previously caused Barcelona some discomfort both in the league — a 2-2 tie — and the cup with a gung-ho line-up, after the match in the Reyno de Navarra.
On Sunday evening in the Bernabéu it was the turn of Real Madrid to feel the force of Unai Emery’s tactical obsessive compulsive disorder as Valencia held the leader to a goalless tie. “Emery planned a serious and competent match,” gushed Valencia president Manuel Llorente after the match. “We had a spot of luck but we could have won,” added his equally loquacious coach.
The gap at the top now stands at four points and the Professional Football League, eager to ramp up the hype as much as possible, announced on Monday that the Camp Nou clásico will be played on April 21 at 8pm. Whether it will decide the title or not is unclear, but Iker Casillas summed up the nervy mood at Real now that Barça is back breathing down its neck: “Of course we might lose the league.”