Coming off a very convincing 2-0 away win over Manchester City in the Champions Leauge, Barcelona seemed a bit deflated, almost out of sorts. Even with Lionel Messi and Neymar on the pitch together the visitors seemed unable to contend with their hosts this time around.
Alex Song scored an own goal at the 32nd minute but Messi tied the match at the 36th to have the teams go into half-time with a 1-1 score line. But the game had been a bit rough and Neymar was hit once at the quarter hour mark and it seemed to slow the Brazilian down for the rest of the match. Barca coach, Tata Martino, was unhappy with the officiating and let the referee know in no uncertain terms in the tunnel leading to the locker rooms. He did not return in the second half but was seen in the stands later on. He had been given a red between halves.
In the second half, a five minute flurry was unleashed, the type Barca usually hands out to its opponents, only this time it was unleashed against Victor Valdes' goal. At the 54th minute Antoine Griezmann slid and lifted the ball over a charging Valdes to put the finishing touches on a great counterattack. Five minutes later the redheaded David Zurutuza came across the middle to meet a perfect cross from Griezmann and poke the ball past the onrushing Valdes.
Thereafter the Catalans seemed unable to muster much of a threat as the host mostly coasted for the next 35 minutes, stoppage time included (http://bit.ly/1fjTJZG).
This result coupled with Real Madrid's 3-0 home win against Elche (http://bit.ly/1grU0Xf), means that the Merengues are in first place, three points ahead of Barca in second with Atletico Madrid playing at Osasuna tomorrow with a chance to share either place on the table with a Spanish Giant.
And things don't get any easier for the three teams at the top of the standings. Within a stretch of a couple of weeks Barca host Manchester City and then play Real at the Camp Nou. Real play away to both Schalke 04 in the Champions League, and then to Atletico before playing hosts to Barca. Atletico play the mentioned games then host AC Milan in the second leg of their Champions League tie.
It is fair to say that March will go a long way toward deciding the fates of these three teams in most of the competitions they are playing in this season.