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The Blaugrana were in danger of losing the lead given to them by Lionel Messi when they were reduced to 10-men, but the former Manchester United man popped up with a vital second

Gerard Pique expressed his relief after Barcelona managed to overcome the dismissal of Thiago to record a crucial 2-0 victory over Mallorca on Saturday night which the defender feels keeps their hopes of retaining its La Liga crown very much alive.

The Blaugrana took the lead midway through the first half with a free-kick from talismanic forward Lionel Messi, but they lost Thiago to a second booking during the second period.

However, Pep Guardiola's men dug in and sealed victory courtesy of Pique, who fired home with just over 10 minutes remaining to ensure that Barca remain hot on the heels of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.

"It was very hard to win, especially with 10 men,” the Spain international is quoted as saying by his club's official website after the game. “The three points are very important and we deserved them. We tried to control the match; they wanted to equalise, but we played well with 10 players and the most important thing is that our title hopes are still alive.

"All that really matters is winning and we’ve managed to earn a great victory. Winning matches in La Liga and Champions League reinforces out morale."

Barcelona, who trails Madrid by six points, faces AC Milan at San Siro on Wednesday night before welcoming Athletic Bilbao to Camp Nou next weekend.

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