In a slump and facing the hottest team in Spain, Barcelona came through with an important win for its title hopes and quelled any fears of a late collapse.
Barcelona ended a three-game winless streak — and Atletico Madrid’s 13-game unbeaten run — with a hard-fought 1-0 win on Sunday to stay on track for its first Spanish league title in four years. The home win restored the team’s comfortable 11-point lead over Real Madrid with eight rounds remaining.
The victory also halted a six-game winning streak by Atletico, which lost ground to Madrid in the fight for second place. Madrid, which is focused on the Champions League and the Copa del Rey final, beat Celta Vigo 2-0 at home on Saturday.
Ferran Torres scored a 44th-minute winner at Camp Nou with a well-placed low shot from just inside the area to end Barcelona’s recent problems entering the final stretch.
It hadn’t scored in three straight games after being humiliated at home by Madrid 4-0 in the Copa del Rey semifinals and held to scoreless draws against modest league opponents in Girona and Getafe.
“We had to win no matter what, it was an important match to keep us on track to winning the league,” Torres said. “It was difficult, against a team that was unbeaten in 13 matches and that was one of the hottest teams this season.”
It was the 23rd clean sheet in the league for Barcelona, which last won the league title in 2019. It has conceded only nine goals in 30 league matches this season.
Third-place Atletico, which has the second-best defense with 22 goals conceded, trails Madrid by five points.
It was the third straight win by Barcelona over Diego Simeone’s team, whose last win against the Catalan club was in 2021. Atletico is winless at Camp Nou in 17 consecutive league matches. Its last league loss this season had been at Barcelona in January.
“They deserved the victory because they were more efficient,” Simeone said. “We had our chances but didn’t take advantage of them.”
Atletico, the 2021 champion, threatened first with a shot by Antoine Griezmann that hit the crossbar three minutes into the match.
Atletico struggled early in the season, quickly falling out of contention for the league title and finishing its Champions League group in last place, but it had been the hottest team in Spain in 2023.
Barcelona coach Xavi had the return of Pedri and Frenkie de Jong after they missed several matches because of injuries.
Youssef En-Nesyri scored a winner four minutes into stoppage time as Sevilla kept its momentum with a 2-1 win over Villarreal at home.
It was the third victory in a row for Sevilla, which eliminated Manchester United in the Europa League midweek. It moved to 12th.
Villarreal stayed sixth after its second straight loss and missed a chance to move closer to the Champions League places.
RELIEF FOR VALENCIA
Valencia took a step forward in its fight against relegation with a 2-0 win at last-place Elche.
The result ended Valencia’s 10-match winless streak in away matches in the league. It had lost eight in a row on the road.
Valencia stayed in 18th place with the same points as 17th-place Almeria, the first team outside the relegation zone.
Elche is 17 points from safety.
GETAFE IN DANGER
South Korean midfielder Lee Kang-in scored a pair of second-half goals as Mallorca came from behind to beat relegation-threatened Getafe 3-1 at home.
Mallorca moved to 10th place, while Getafe dropped to 16th and one point from the relegation zone.