It certainly was not one to remember. By any standards, particularly those of Barcelona, it was a rather dull affair. At times it seemed as if it were a training match with an unusually high number of fans. In the end however, the result was the same – another win for the Catalans. And, despite seeming immaterial, this one was vital as it has brought Barca to within touching distance of sealing their 22nd La Liga title.
In recent weeks, the Primera Division has been largely forgotten in the Spanish Press. All the attention has focused on the Champions League and understandably so. Real Madrid are desperately seeking La Decima and they are certainly fancying themselves. As are Barcelona who are yearning for a return to Wembley. Malaga, for a good while, also had the south of Spain dreaming until their hearts were broken against Borussia Dortmund with the aftermath of a cruel exit raging across the country for one too many days following.
Not much will change either in the two weeks to come with the Champions League semi-finals taking place. Yet, while the focus has been diverted to European matters, Barcelona have slowly been edging towards reclaiming their domestic crown. They may not be considered at the top of their game by many observers, but, Barcelona’s win over Levante was their third on the trot. In as many games, they have netted nine times without conceding. And, just like on Saturday night, they have been doing this without a number of their regular starters.
Across the backline, Dani Alves was the only familiar face while in midfield Alex Song and Thiago Alcantara were again called up for the second week in a row as were the attacking pair of Cesc Fabregas and Cristian Tello. While they were anything but dazzling on Saturday night, Barcelona were still dominant. Levante barely saw the ball let alone to get close to scoring, though they did have one valid goal chalked off due to an incorrect offside decision.
Of all the squad members that have been granted added playing while some recuperate from injuries and others are rested for Europe, Fabregas has been making the most of his chance. The former Arsenal captain’s match-winning strike against Juan Ignacio Martinez’s men was his fourth in two matches. Thiago and Tello have put in some encouraging displays too that augur well for the future while Alexis Sanchez has pitched in with a few goals and even more assists.
Tito Vilanova has been forced to rotate his squad in recent weeks but it has paid off and now his side stand on the brink of all but wrapping up the League title. In fact, they could be officially named champions as early as next week should they win away to Athletic Bilbao and should Real Madrid – who will likely field a weakened side to rest their key players for the Champions League – lose to Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon.
With it just being a matter of time before Barca close out the Championship, Real Madrid have little to play for in La Liga. In truth, it has been this way for some time. However, that did not stop them from putting on a convincing display over Real Betis. They may have gone behind, but, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mezut Ozil with two goals and Karim Benzema with one goal were all in fine form as they accounted for the Andalucians, denting the visitors’ hopes for European football next season in the process. But, the three points came at a price with Marcelo and Luka Modric going off injured while Diego Lopez and Benzema also picked up knocks.
While in the post-match Presser Aitor Karanka lamented the injuries to his side, Diego Simeone, whose side triumphed away to Sevilla 0-1, will be relishing the news. With Los Blancos travelling to Germany midweek for tricky tie with Borussia Dortmund, the Argentine Coach may be confident that with an in-form again Radamel Falcao, now is just the time to get one over their city rivals for the first time since 1999.