La Liga title race: Barcelona under pressure from Madrid duo

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres © Reuters
Barcelona's 8-0 victory at Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday was a welcome return to form for the Nou Camp team, but just one point still separates the top three in La Liga.

Both Atletico and Real Madrid took advantage of Barca's recent dip in form to set up an enthralling end to the season in Spain.

Having looked well on course for a second consecutive treble a fortnight ago, Barca crashed out of the Champions League and are now under severe pressure from their Madrid rivals.

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Atletico's 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao on the same night was their eighth win in their last nine games, while Real's 3-0 success against Villarreal was their eighth win on the spin.

Barca's run-in looks favorable, with Sporting Gijon, Real Betis, Espanyol and Granada their remaining four games.

Of that quartet, only Betis are currently in the top half of the table, leaving Luis Enrique's team as favorites to claim a third title in four years.

Three of Atletico's last four games are at home, with a match against relegation-threatened Levante on the penultimate weekend of the season their only away trip.

Real's final four games include visits to Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Deportivo, with Valencia at home also representing a potential banana skin.

The Madrid teams have the added distraction of Champions League semi-finals to contend with, while Barca also have the advantage of a better head-to-head record against both their title rivals.

If the teams are level on points at the end of the season, La Liga is decided by a straight aggregate scoreline between the two sides and Barca would win via that scenario.

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Despite the big win against Deportivo, Enrique was taking nothing for granted after the game.

"The game was very similar to Valencia [a 2-1 home defeat]," he said.

"We did a great job today and I don't know if we had more or less chances, but of course we were incredibly effective, that was the fundamental difference.

"This time we had infinite solutions and we moved the ball around midfield really well, but I insist that we did the same against Valencia and look at the result.

"In this job you have to be prepared for everything to happen and always be aware. That's what makes this sport so special."

"We have a marvelous challenge in front of us and we are better prepared for it after this spectacular result.

"The challenge now is to stay up there. This victory was key but we need to be top after 38 games and not 34. It will be difficult."

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