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Simon Heptinstall On April - 18 - 2012

Barcelona Squeeze Past Unlucky Levante

Real Madrid and Barcelona are set to go head to head on Saturday night for the fourth time already this season, as the Catalan giants host their greatest rivals at the Nou Camp. And if this weekend has proved anything in La Liga, then it’s that neither team are invincible. Yes both teams won their respective matches, but both had to come from behind in order to do so. And with the mid week distraction of Champions League semi finals to get through first, neither team will go into this fixture with the ideal preparation.

After Real Madrid had seen off the plucky Sporting Gijon on Saturday night, it was up to Barcelona to follow suit and keep the points difference at four. And thanks to the magic of Messi, and a questionable penalty decision, they did it. Levante took the lead in the 22nd minute after Barkero dispatched a penalty that was won after Sergio Busquets handled in the box from a corner. Despite having almost all the possession for the remainder of the first half, Barcelona almost fell two behind when Kone and Barkero combined on a quick break away that was stopped at the last moment by some calm defending by ever reliable Carlos Puyol.

In the second half it was mainly Barcelona, and they got their reward in the 64th minute when Messi and Sanchez played a lovely one-two before the diminutive Argentinian swept the ball past Gustavo Munúa and into the net. And soon Messi was it again, this time from the penalty spot after Pedro Botelho and Isaac Cuenca tangled in the box and the referee pointed for a fowl. The penalty was a controversial one and one that on another night would have resulted in no action at all. The fact a similar incident happened shortly after with Iniesta that resulted in penalty just went to show how touch and go the first decision truly was.

But Barcelona hung on to record a priceless away win and keep all eyes glued to the El Clasico this weekend. Should Barcelona fail to beat Real Madrid then the title would surely be over(though we’ve heard similar predictions before). However a win on Saturday night would reduce the gap between the two clubs to just one point and with Real Madrid still having to go to Bilbao, the title race would be very much back on. But what if Barcelona win on Saturday night but lose out on the Primera Division by a single point? How will football fans around the world decipher that? After all, Barcelona would have lost the league so how can they claim to be the better team? But what about Real Madrid who would have both league matches this season to their greatest rivals and been knocked out the Copa del Rey by them? What kind of champions would they be then?

If such an event does happen and Barcelona do win the battle but lose the war, then the real defining match of the season may take place on Europe’s grandest stage of all, the Champions League final. Ever since Jose Mourniho took over at the Bernabeu, his time in charge has been leading towards one big moment to finally show he has figured out how to get the best of Barcelona. If he is able to get past Bayern Munich, and should Barcelona see off Chelsea, then his defining moment will arrive. It may well be that Real Madrid go into the final as Spanish champions and with the inferiority complex finally lifted off the shoulder of the Real Madrid players. They would feel like equals on the pitch for the first time since Pep Guardiola took over at Barcelona and started his grand procession of trophies.

Of course this is all hypothetical and nothing can be decided between these two teams until the season ends. But should Barcelona fail to win against Real Madrid this weekend, then it will be nearly impossible for them to lift the Primera Division come the end of May. This then is a defining week in the lives of Guadiola’s men. A chance to put one foot in the Champions League final, followed by a possible title deciding match up against Real Madrid. We know they play the best football, let’s see if they still have the big game bottle.

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