Title blow as Barcelona draw with Celta
Barcelona’s title hopes suffered a hammer blow yesterday as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Celta Vigo, handing Real Madrid the chance to move two points clear at the top of La Liga. Luis Suarez twice put Barca in front at Balaidos with his first goals since January but Iago Aspas bent in a late free-kick to earn Celta a draw, in what could prove a pivotal moment in the title race.
Barcelona edge a point ahead of Madrid but Zinedine Zidane’s side will hope to take a big step towards becoming champions by winning away at bottom club Espanyol today. Madrid own the superior head-to-head against Barca and have won four out of four since La Liga restarted earlier this month.
With a kinder run-in than the Catalans, who play Atletico Madrid next on Tuesday, the trophy appears to be Madrid’s to lose. “The feeling is a negative one,” said Suarez afterwards. “If we want to stay in the title race and have it in our hands we have to win all our games. But we now have to rely on Madrid to drop points.”
Suarez played his best game since undergoing knee surgery in January, his first goal coming from a surprise free-kick from Lionel Messi, who crossed when everyone expected him to shoot. Yet Barcelona’s defensive frailties hurt them again and Celta should even have won it in injury-time, only for Nolito to miss a golden chance at the back post.
Celta climb to 16th, eight points clear of the bottom three. Quique Setien answered calls to start 20-year-old Riqui Puig and 17-year-old Ansu Fati, and the duo impressed, injecting energy and speed into Barca’s attack.
Antoine Griezmann was left on the bench and when he came on, he was on the side of the wall that Aspas breached with his free-kick to find the bottom corner. Messi was at the heart of everything going forward and it was his early corner that Gerard Pique headed against the crossbar.