Barcelona is now firmly on course to win its first major title since Lionel Messi’s departure, as Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Villarreal extended the team’s lead over eternal rival Real Madrid to 11 points at the top of La Liga.
Pedri scored the game’s only goal in the 18th minute to secure Barça’s sixth consecutive league win, a run that has coincided with Real’s stuttering domestic form.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men – who were away in Morocco last week winning the Club World Cup – have managed just two wins from their last five La Liga matches and will attempt to close the gap on their rival when they return to league action against Elche on Wednesday.
Renowned around the world for having played beautiful football over the years, the Azulgrana have this season often found a new way to win.
Sunday’s win over Villarreal was a scrappy, hard-fought three points and marked Barça’s seventh 1-0 win of the season, equaling the Catalan club’s record for most 1-0 league wins in a season, with 17 games still remaining.
Despite the victory, head coach Xavi – who has impressively turned things around following last season’s struggles – warned his players that the title race is far from over and insisted his team still has a lot of room for improvement.
“It’s not an insurmountable distance [over Real], there are 17 games left,” he told reporters, per Diario Sport. “I’m happy, we’ve had a very good run of results, extraordinary. We are solid, serious, hardworking. These games are difficult and it is one more example that the team is solid.
“I see many pre-goal options that do not materialize. The last pass was missing, the decision-making. When you don’t capitalize, it’s always the same, you suffer until the end. But we took three vital points for the fight for the league.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Barcelona’s title charge has been the team’s stingy defense. Xavi’s side has conceded just seven goals in 21 La Liga matches this season and lost only once, a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid back in October.
As Xavi was eager to stress, the title is by no means a foregone conclusion, but it will take something special from an out of sorts Los Blancos team to overhaul a rampant Barcelona.