Luis Suarez and the record-breaking Lionel Messi left the Catalans 11 points clear at the summit as Atletico were downed by two late goals Ernesto Va
Luis Suarez and the record-breaking Lionel Messi left the Catalans 11 points clear at the summit as Atletico were downed by two late goals
Ernesto Valverde acknowledged Barcelona are closing in on the league title after beating second-placed Atletico Madrid 2-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi scored the goals in the final five minutes, as Barca eventually made the most of their numerical advantage following Diego Costa’s first-half sending off for dissent.
Suarez beat Jan Oblak from outside the area to open the scoring, before Messi struck with an impudent no-look finish to ensure he would topple Iker Casillas as the player with most Liga victories in history , having triumphed 335 times with Barcelona since his senior debut in October 2004.
Atletico effectively needed to win to keep their dwindling La Liga title hopes alive, but defeat leaves them 11 points adrift, making a comeback unlikely with seven matches to go.
Head coach Valverde can feel Barca closing in, though he is eager to nip any complacency in the bud.
“It’s three very important points,” he told reporters. “We are closer to the title, but we still have it [to win].
“The work has to be finished. Today [Saturday] was a fundamental match because they can mean a lot.
“We are very happy because our opponent was second in the table and a huge team who has fought to the end with one less man.”
Valverde also paid tribute to Suarez after he scored his seventh goal in nine matches across all competitions, a run that has come on the back of a difficult spell.
“He [Suarez] always ends up being decisive,” Valverde added. “He’s a permanent headache for the opponents and you don’t know when he’s going to appear.
“He was fresh, with a spark, and he had a great goalkeeper [Jan Oblak] in front of him.”
Barcelona will be back in action on Wednesday, as the Catalans kick off their Champions League quarter final at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
Their next Liga engagement, meanwhile, comes next Saturday when they visit relegation candidates Huesca.