Jose Mourinho admitted an eight-point gap may be too much for his side to close down as Pep Guardiola's patched-up side seal a narrow victory
Jose Mourinho has conceded his side have too much ground to cover after their home defeat to Sporting Gijon, and Barcelona celebrated their victory as if they had secured the title.
Pep Guardiola was forced to ring a number of changes as Xavi was suspended and Pedro was sidelined, while Lionel Messi, who picked up an injury on international duty, could only make the bench.
Neither team ventured forward with great purpose nor determination in a bland opening 45 minutes. However, Giuseppe Rossi came close to breaking the deadlock in the 5th minute but his effort was saved superbly by Victor Valdes.
The diminutive ex-Manchester United man was again denied by the Barcelona stopper. Latching onto a sumptuously weighed through ball from Santi Cazorla, his thumped effort was punched away by the 'keeper with Ruben missing out on the rebound by a matter of inches.
The Catalans passed the ball around with no great urgency, clearly missing the highly influential pairing of Messi and Xavi. The home side threatened sparsely with Cazorla and Rossi providing the Barca defence with some uneasy moments.
Just before the interval, the visitors reminded their hosts of the danger they had as David Villa latched onto a loose ball but Catala managed to put it behind for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, Spain's record goalscorer followed up only to see his tame effort drift wide.
Close encounter | Barcelona's Thiago edges possession
The second half continued in the same uninspiring manner and Guardiola brought Messi on in a bid to secure victory.
The visitors did not have to wait long for the change to bring rewards although the Argentina was not influential in the goal.
A corner flicked on by Serio Busquets was controlled majestically by Pique on his chest and he slammed it into the top left corner emphatically to give his team the advantage at last. Alves could've help double the lead minutes later but his cross was too high for Afellay as Barca looked to push home with the win.
Messi was now beginning to light up the game and the Argentine was denied by the goalkeeper, the Argentine seeing his effort tipped away from goal.
Valdes was to make the save of the game though, after a swift counter from the hosts nearly conjured up an equaliser. Nilmar was somehow denied by the Spanish goalie's sprawling legs and the lead remained intact.
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