The players of Barcelona are hopeful that the pressure of leading La Liga will undermine Real Madrid’s pursuit of the Spanish title.
“I’m confident that Real will slip up, now they’ve got to cope with the strain of being leaders,” Barca midfielder Xavi said after his side’s 1-1 draw at home to Real Betis which saw the Catalan side relinquish their lead at the top of the table to arch-rivals Real.
“There are still plenty of twists left in the title race and it is going to go right to the wire. There are 12 points left to play for and if I didn’t think Real would slip up I would go home right now.”
Real earned top spot on Saturday after an 89th-minute goal from Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain earned them a last-ditch 4-3 comeback win over Espanyol.
Barca looked as though they would reclaim the leadership after going ahead against Betis through a Ronaldinho penalty, but they were caught off guard by a quickly taken free kick by Marcos Assuncao and fellow Brazilian Rafael Sobis fired in the equaliser.
Barca’s draw came in the aftermath of their humiliating 4-0 defeat by Getafe in the semi-finals of the King’s Cup.
“We all wanted to make up for what happened in Getafe,” said keeper Victor Valdes.
“But the whole team messed up at the end when we lost concentration at that free kick. We had our chances, but when you don’t put them away you are always playing a risky game.”
Captain Carles Puyol insisted that Barca would still win the title.
“I can’t see Real winning all of their remaining games,” said the defender. “We certainly won’t be throwing in the towel. We will be treating every game as a final.”
Real, who are level on points with Barcelona, lead the table by virtue of their better head-to-head record.