A Lionel Messi free-kick was enough for FC Barcelona to defeat nearest challengers Atletico Madrid with a 1-0 win at the Nou Camp and establish an eight-point advantage.
The result meant that to overtake Barca, Atletico would need to win all their remaining games — including a trip to face local rivals Real Madrid in early trip — and hope that Barca lose three of their remaining 11 games.
Nonetheless, it was a deserved win for the Catalan team although they also had several chances to add to their tally, chief among them a fierce left-footed volley by the excellent Sergio Busquets from a corner, forcing Atletico keeper Jan Oblak into a smart reflex save.
However, Messi’s goal — a landmark 600th of his illustrious career — after after 25 minutes was all his team needed to step closer to another La Liga title as he breached a stubborn Atletico defence that has only conceded 12 goals in 27 league games.
Atletico did not throw in the towel easily despite conceding either, as their manager Diego Simeone opted to pour men forward finished with four forwards in a bold 4-2-4 formation, with Diego Costa, Antoine Griezmann, Kevin Gameiro and Angel Correa up front and starting to target direct long balls in the direction of Costa.
It was unlucky for the Madrid team that their striker Costa was heavily subdued by the excellent home central defensive pairing of Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti, while Griezmann couldn’t maintain his golden form after coming into the game on the back of consecutive hat-tricks.
The only possible negative of the afternoon for Barca was the loss of skipper Iniesta with a hamstring injury, which is likely to keep him out of action for around a month.
If that comes to pass, it would meant that Iniesta would not be able to feature in the second leg of the Champions League tie with Chelsea, and could also miss the first leg of the quarter-finals should Barca be able to progress after having drew 1-1 in the first leg away against the London team.