Lionel Messi and Barcelona beat Real Madrid to breathe new life into La Liga title race

Just a few weeks ago, Real Madrid seemed home and hosed in Spain, boasting a commanding lead in the table, with a confidence-boosting buffer of some valuable games in hand ahead of bitter rivals Barcelona.

However, that didn’t account for the genius Lionel Messi popping up with a last-gasp winner to win El Clasico 3-2 at the Bernabeu. The diminutive Argentinian breathed new life into La Liga’s title race, firing his 500th career goal for the Spanish giants to launch Barca back to the top of the table on goal difference. Crucially, Barca also now boast a better head to head record against Real if the pair finish level on points.

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Despite their heartbreaking defeat, the bookies still make Real Madrid favourites (a best 4-7 Sky Bet). Nevertheless, Real’s advantage is minimal with just a solitary game in hand against Celta Vigo. Admittedly, Vigo may very well have other things on their mind with a crunch Europa League semifinal looming against Manchester United.

Real also face two scraps with noisy neighbours Atletico Madrid as Los Blancos aim to become the first team in history to defend the Champions League.

After the diminutive Argentinian’s last-ditch strike on enemy soil, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if buoyant Barca (best 28-17 with Unibet) won all their remaining La Liga games to seal the title.

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Zinedine Zidane’s men seem certain to drop more points as their remaining fixtures look much tougher. Deservedly sent off for a rash challenge on Messi, robust defender Sergio Ramos, faces a hefty suspension and could miss the business end of the season too, leaving the door open for Luis Enrique to snatch La Liga from Real’s clutches in his final season at the Nou Camp.