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Can Barcelona close the gap? (Hint: they’ll need some help)

Barcelona's coach Pep Guardiola looks on

Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola looks on during the Champions League round of sixteen second leg football match between FC Barcelona and Bayer 04 Leverkusen on March 7, 2012 at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO/ JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

Over the last season-plus, it’s become an all too familiar scene:

Real Madrid reacting poorly (and often, with aggression) to adversity:

  • Against Barcelona on December 10, the team was cautioned three times in 17 minutes after Marcelo’s game-winning, own goal at the Bernabeu.
  • In the second leg of the Super Cup, the Merengues were left with nine men as Barcelona won the season’s first trophy.
  • El Real were given five of the game’s six cards (four after the 58th minute) in the second leg of last year’s Champions League semifinal loss to Barça.

Wednesday showed the poor reactions aren’t confined to Clasicos. After a Marcos Senna direct kick pulled relegation-embattled Villarreal even (1-1) in the second half at El Madrigal (evoking flashbacks of Malaga’s Santi Cazorla stealing points at the Bernabeu this weekend), four members of Real Madrid were dismissed: Sergio Ramos (always involved in these types of affairs), Mesut Oezil, head coach José Mourinho as well as one of his assistants (Rui Faria). The Yellow Submarine went on to take a surprise point, with Real Madrid ending the match day “only” a six points up on Barcelona.

Which begs our question: Can Barcelona actually close this gap (that stood at 10 points last week) and claim their fourth straight Primera Division?

Well, of course they can – duh, they’re Barcelona – but they’re going to need some help. If Real Madrid maintains their current pace, they’ll finish the season with 97-98 points. If Barcelona takes full points from their final 10 matches, they’ll finish with 96 (current totals: Real, 72; Barcelona, 66).

How likely is that to happen? Let’s look at their 10 remaining games:

Date, Opponent, Reverse, La Liga Rank

  • Mar. 24, at Mallorca, 5-0 win, 11th
  • Mar. 31, Athletic Bilbao, 2-2, 9th
  • Apr. 7, at Zaragoza, 4-0 win, 20th
  • Apr. 10, Getafe, 1-0 loss, 12th
  • Apr. 14, Levante, 5-0 win, 4th
  • Apr. 21, Real Madrid, 1-3 win, 1st
  • Apr. 28, at Rayo Vallecano, 4-0 win, 10th
  • May 1, Malaga, 1-4 win, 5th
  • May 5, Espanyol, 1-1, 8th
  • May 12, at Betis, 4-2 win, 16th

Six of Barcelona’s final 10 matches are against the top-half, slightly more than you’d expect (particularly considering Barça can’t play themselves). With a club like Athletic (who just eliminated Manchester United from Europa League) sitting ninth, Spain is far more than the two-club league many imagine. As such, this is reasonably tough run-in (Real Madrid play five top-half teams). Having to balance Champions League commitments, it’s difficult to see Barcelona getting to 96 points.

Then again, they may not have to. After Real Madrid’s latest mini-meltdown, cracks are starting to appear in the leaders’ armor.

With microphones from Spanish outlet AS picking up Cristiano Ronaldo’s derisive, post-match “Steal, steal, only steal” taunts to referee Paradas Romero, it seems the introspection-less, siege mentality we’re accustomed to seeing from Mourinho-coached teams is alive and well.

If Real continue laying siege to themselves, Barça have a chance.