MADRID // Real Madrid’s draw at home to Villarreal in Spain’s Primera Liga on Sunday not only cut their lead over second-placed Barcelona to two points, but it also means that the clasico in three weeks’ time will likely have even more importance.
Madrid and Barca each have two more domestic league games before the clash at Camp Nou, the European champions playing at Athletic Bilbao and at home to Levante and the Catalans hosting Rayo Vallecano and travelling to Eibar.
If the gap stays the same, a win for Madrid in the lair of their arch rivals would put them in an extremely strong position with 10 games left, while success for Barca would give them an edge but a less commanding one.
Luis Enrique's side lost 3-1 at the Bernabeu in October, so unless Barca manage to match or better that result, Madrid will have the head-to-head advantage that is used to separate teams who finish level on points at the end of the league campaign.
Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti complained of a lack of speed and shooting accuracy after Sunday's 1-1 stalemate against a Villarreal side resting many of their regulars ahead of tomorrow's Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at home to Barca.
Madrid had a host of chances in the second half, and Cristiano Ronaldo, the league’s top scorer, was particularly wasteful. He fired 13 efforts on goal, with his lone success coming after he put his side ahead from the penalty spot just after half time.
Madrid have one foot in the last eight of the Uefa Champions League after winning their last 16, first leg at Schalke, 2-0, last month, and they host the German side for the return on March 10.
“The team is improving,” Ancelotti told a news conference after the Villarreal game.
“We’ve dropped two points, but La Liga will be decided in the final match.
“We have to focus on the two-point lead we’ve got, which isn’t much but is a lead we must make the most of. Now we have to carry on and in the next game, which will be difficult, and we will try to produce a good reaction.”
Follow us on Twitter at @NatSportUAE