The visitors tried hard, largely dominating the game in an effort to draw level, but for all their endeavour and commitment, and despite such a poor performance from Luis Enrique’s side, Barça emerged with all the points, and it appears, one hand on the league trophy.
With the gap once more at five points, Real needed a win at home to Malaga to stay in touch. Sergio Ramos grabbed the first in the 24th minute but Malaga fought bravely and in an exciting second half, Real could not relax, especially after Cristiano Ronaldo slammed a 67th minute penalty against the post.
A piece of magic from James Rodriguez doubled their lead in the 69th as the Colombian found space on the edge of the box before curling an exquisite effort onto the postage stamp. Yet two minutes later Juanmi scored for Malaga and it was not until injury time when Chicharito crossed for Ronaldo to tap in unmarked that victory was assured.
Worryingly for Real, who were already missing QQ Online Karim Benzema through knee injury, Gareth Bale hobbled off after five minutes clutching his left lower leg and Luka Modric on the hour mark following a knee collision. Modric has been ruled out for six weeks.
Atletico won 2-1 at Deportivo La Coruna, who have slipped into the bottom three. Antoine Griezmann’s double strike means he has overtaken Neymar in third in the race for the Pichichi top-scorer trophy.
The Frenchman leads the Brazilian by 20 goals to 18. Ahead of them are Leo Messi with 35 goals and Cristiano Ronaldo with 39.
* Real Betis, coached by Pepe Mel, lead the Liga Adelante (second division) by six points from Sporting Gijon and Girona.
Las Palmas, Real Valladolid and Ponferradina occupy the play-off spots with eight games left.
* In this week’s transfer rumours, Manchester United goalie David De Gea was yet again linked with a summer move to the Bernabeu, with a Spanish TV programme Jugones claiming the deal was all but sealed.
But Iker Casillas told AS he intends to stay at the Bernabeu until his contract ends in 2017, dampening rumours he could make way for the young Spaniard.
Valencia meanwhile have quashed talk that much-praised teenage left-back Jose Gaya is on his way to Real or Manchester City.
“Gaya is staying at Valencia and is not going to Real Madrid or any other club,” said chief executive Amadeo Salvo. Tipped ‘the new Roberto Carlos’, the 19 year-old is stalling on a new deal at the Mestalla, with his agents demanding a release clause of €22 million and the club €50 million.
Real have enquired about Milan’s 16 year-old midfielder Hachim Mastour, according to his agent and are also sniffing around Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus.
The 25 year-old attacker is under contract until 2019 but without Champions League football next season, could be tempted by a move to Madrid. He & fellow German international Toni Kroos share the same agent and a fee of €30 million has been mooted.
Martin Odegaard, the teenage Norwegian starlet signed in a blaze of publicity last autumn, could make a shock exit this summer from the Bernabeu after failing to break into the first-team squad and struggling to claim a place in Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid B side.
Real’s Isco meanwhile, is catching the eye of Arsenal and Manchester City and a transfer fee of €45 million has been mentioned.
Pedro’s agent Antonio Sanz confirmed that Inter is an option for the Barcelona attacker, but did not mention reputed suitors Arsenal and Liverpool.
Barcelona have joined the list of clubs interested in Torino’s Italian international full-back Matteo Darmian.
Atletico Madrid could re-sign Brazilian left-back Filipe Luis barely a season after selling him to Chelsea for £15.8 million, with Spanish international midfielder Koke heading to Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal are set to pip Tottenham to the signing of Espanyol centre-back Hector Moreno this summer.
Deportivo La Coruna are an unlikely suitor for Tottenham’s 20 year-old midfielder Grant Ward, currently on loan at Coventry City.
The English press keeps recycling the idea that Gareth Bale is headed to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or the City of Manchester Stadium, but their Spanish equivalent has never entertained the idea.
Jurgen Klopp’s sudden exit from Borussia Dortmund made only a few waves in Spain compared to his more likely destination in England, but his name has equally not been discarded from the list of possible replacements should Carlo Ancelotti fail to land the league or Champions League and be given the heave-ho from the Bernabeu in the summer.