Los Blancos can claim their 35th title next Saturday with a point against Espanyol. Carlo Ancelotti’s side were left on the doorstep of their latest success by rivals Barcelona, who lost at home to a struggling Rayo Vallecano on Sunday night. It was the Blaugrana’s second successive reverse at Camp Nou in the league – they had also lost to Cadiz by the same scoreline the previous weekend – and their third across all competitions.
Rayo took a seventh-minute lead against Barcelona, silencing the raucous home crowd present inside the Camp Nou. Released by Isi Palazon with a reverse pass into space, forward Alvaro Garcia burst in between the two Barcelona centre-backs and fired the ball past custodian Marc-Andre ter Stegen from close range.
Barca sought an immediate response, as defender Ronald Araujo shot straight at Stole Dimitrievski in between the opposite goalposts just three minutes later. Jordi Alba attempted his luck from distance but whizzed his shot narrowly wide of the upright.
The home side’s best chance to level things up in the first half fell to Gavi; the youngster pounced on the ball inside the Rayo box after a corner and attempted to curl it inside the far post, but for it to rattle the crossbar.
Barcelona upped the intensity in the second half, but Dimitrievski and the Rayo defence proved up for the challenge. Memphis Depay was denied in quick succession by Nikola Maras and then the goalkeeper, the latter also making a stop from Adama Traore deep inside stoppage time.
With their opponents stretched, Rayo found space to attack in the ninth minute of added time, but substitute Pathe Ciss’s shot from outside the box came off the post. At the other end, the final chance of the match fell to Ousmane Dembele with the goalkeeper off his line, but the Frenchman was denied a certain goal by Alejandro Cadena’s brave block.
Rayo won, pushing themselves to safety while leaving Barcelona to fight for second place.
2021/22 LaLiga top 4
|#||Team||Matches played||Goal difference||Points|