Barcelona leapfrogs Real Madrid in title race

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With Real Madrid dropping five points in their last two league outings Barcelona has now leapfrogged them and taken over the lead in the Spanish La Liga. Real was beaten 1-0 on the road by Athletic Bilbao on March 7 and were held to a 1-1 home draw by Villarreal a week earlier. Barcelona took advantage of the slip up with 6-1 home win over Rayo Vallecano on March 8 and a 3-1 away victory against Villarreal a week earlier. Barcelona now sits on top of the 20-team table with 62 points followed by Real Madrid with 61 and reigning champions Atletico Madrid at 55. Each team has 12 league games remaining in the 2014/15 campaign.

bet365 now lists Barcelona at 4/6 to win the Spanish league with Real Madrid 6/5 and Atletico Madrid at 25/1.

Argentine international forward Lionel Messi set a new Spanish record for hat tricks in the win over Rayo as he notched his 32nd career three-goal game in all competitions for Barcelona. The achievement was even more impressive considering he scored all three goals in a span of just 12 minutes in the second half. The old Spanish hat trick record was held by striker Telmo Zarra of Athletic Bilbao. Messi might have had some luck on his side though since Rayo was down to 10 men after Tito was sent off with a red card. He also scored one of his goals on a penalty kick which the referee ordered to be retaken after his first attempt was saved.

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Barcelona now sits in first place for the first time since early November after the same number of games played as Real Madrid. The two sides will get together for the El Clasico at Barcelona’s Nou Camp Stadium in two week’s time for a match that could ultimately decide the league title. Atletico Madrid is still technically in the race, but they also dropped two points on the weekend with a 1-1 home draw against fourth-placed Valencia.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said the team isn’t celebrating anything since, “Being leaders is not something that we are concentrating on much at the moment as there is still a long way to go in the league. We started the season well, then we had a drop in form and it looks like we are playing well again now.”

Barcelona scored on their first shot at net against Rayo as Luis Suarez banged one in after five minutes. That goal stood until the second half when the floodgates opened. Pique made it 2-0 after 49 minutes and Tito was then sent off for Rayo in the 56th after chopping Suarez down in the box. Messi took the penalty which keeper Cristian Alvarez saved. However, Messi was told to take it again as a Rayo player had entered the box while he took the kick. The forward hit the jackpot with his second shot.

He then added goals in the 63rd and 68th minute for his hat trick, which was his 24th in league play. His 32 hat tricks in all Spanish competitions are five more than Real Madrid’s Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. Alberto Bueno scored the lone goal for Rayo on a late penalty after Dani Alves was given a red card, but Suarez added a second to make it 6-1. bet365 now lists Barcelona at 4/6 to win the Spanish league with Real Madrid 6/5 and Atletico Madrid at 25/1.

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