Barcelona closed in on the La Liga title after beating 10-man Atletico Madrid 2-0 in Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown at the Nou Camp.
Barca were surprisingly pushed back by Atleti, but late strikes by Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi gave the Catalans an 11-point lead at the top of the table.
Atletico began brightly but their gameplan was shredded when Diego Costa was shown a straight red card in the 28th minute for a verbal tirade at referee Jesus Gil Manzano.
Atletico produced a gutsy second-half display, expertly shackling Barca, but the Catalans finally found a way past the visitors’ outstanding goalkeeper Jan Oblak with a superb curling shot from Suarez in the 85th minute.
Moments later Messi sealed victory and quite probably the league title with an irresistibly cool finish into the net and Barca’s fans jubilantly chanted “champions”, crowing at their surely unassailable lead at the top with seven games remaining.
Suarez was full of praise for his side for winning such a difficult game so soon after their gruelling 4-4 draw against Villarreal in midweek.
“This was another game which shows just how hard it is to win the league so we deserve lot more credit for what we’re achieving,” Suarez said post-match.
“We’ve now got a very big advantage over Atletico. There are still some games left but we took two steps towards winning the league today.”