Week 26 of the Spanish League took place on the weekend of 3rd and 4th march 2006, with Real Madrid going into the weekend a full ten points clear of FC Barcelona, the previous year’s title holders and bitterest rival. Madrid was to face the second team of the city of Barcelona, Espanyol, at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, while FC Barcelona was to play host to Sporting Gijon, sitting down in the relegation zone.
While on paper at least, Sporting looked to be a walk over, football matches don’t always follow mathematical logic in that respect and so Barcelona were fully prepared for whatever their visitors could throw at them.
However, Pep Guardiola was forced to field an under strength team, with Leo Messi sitting the match out due to his first ever suspension owing to five yellow cards picked up in previous matches, and Alexis started out on the bench; the Catalans were certainly looking a little short up front.
Much of the first half looked like a stalemate, with neither team able to score despite some effort to do so from both teams. However, four minutes from the half time break a nice bit of team play from Keita and Adriano set up Iniesta for the first goal of the match from 6 yards; minutes later Cesc almost made it two.
After the break Sporting’s de las Cuevas got in past the Barcelona defence and Pique challenged him; de las Cuevas went down and out came a red card for the Catalan defender. Replays showed that the decision was harsh and Pique was quick to criticise after the match.
With Barcelona thrown off balance Sporting managed to score. Once they did get back on their feet with 10 players though Iniesta and Xavi were looking like real stars. However, it was Keita who put Barcelona back in the lead 20 minutes before the end; and Xavi finished it off for the home team when he scored a few minutes from the end.
With three points in the bag, attention was then focused on Real Madrid to see what would happen with Espanyol, who went into the weekend in eighth place in la liga. Unfortunately for Barcelona, Madrid also took all three points available to them too, with a comfortable 5-0 win against Espanyol. While it is mathematically possible still for Barcelona to win the league, the likelihood of it happening at this stage, with Real Madrid still so strong, it close to zero. However, it looks like they won’t stop playing their best and still have the Champions League to play for.