MADRID - Barcelona outclassed city rivals
Espanyol 2-0 on Sunday to move to the brink of a third
consecutive La Liga title.
A mazy run and shot from Andres Iniesta in the 29th minute
and a Gerard Pique header soon after the re-start were just
rewards for another controlled and patient display from Pep
Second-placed Real Madrid's 6-2 thrashing of Sevilla on
Saturday had denied Barca the chance to win the championship in
front of their own fans, but they showed few signs of nerves as
they calmly dispatched their neighbours.
The Champions League finalists climbed to 91 points and
restored their eight-point lead with three games left, only
needing a draw at Levante on Wednesday to wrap up the title
unless Real slip up at home to Getafe on Tuesday.
"For the first time the league is very close, it's in our
own hands and we need to achieve it against Levante," Guardiola
"Madrid will win (on Tuesday). I want to win the title as
soon as possible. I'm not going to rest anyone because we
haven't won anything yet. The only team to have won something is
Real Madrid (the King's Cup)."
Barca seemed to be playing well within themselves against a
team who have often caused them problems, but after Iniesta
slalomed into the area to score Europa League-chasing Espanyol
were up against it.
Pique nodded in at the near post from a corner in the 48th
and despite the odd scare Barca cruised to the final whistle.
One of the biggest cheers of the day for home fans was for
Eric Abidal when the French full-back came on for the last 20
minutes as he continued his recovery from surgery on a liver
Earlier, Villarreal were held to a dull 0-0 draw at Real
Mallorca which damaged their chances of securing automatic
qualification for next season's Champions League.
Juan Carlos Garrido's team, who were knocked out of the
Europa League at the semi-final stage by Porto on Thursday,
stayed fourth in the standings with 61 points after a rare
Villarreal slipped five points behind Valencia in third, who
were 3-0 winners over Real Sociedad on Saturday, but they pulled
seven points ahead of fifth place.
At the foot of the standings, Osasuna came from behind to
beat Real Zaragoza 3-1 and drag themselves out of the bottom
three and up to 14th on 41 points, two ahead of their hosts.
Angel Lafita capitalised on an error to give Zaragoza the
lead in the first half but the visitors battled back after the
break with goals from Javier Camunas, Sergio Fernandez and Kike
Zaragoza are kept out of the relegation places by their
superior head-to-head record with 18th-placed Deportivo La Coruna.
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