FC Barcelona has stayed just a point behind Real Madrid CF in the Spanish La Liga race with their 0-1 victory against Real Valladolid on Saturday. Arturo Vidal scored the lone goal, which has kept the team's title hopes alive, for now at least. Real Madrid has a chance to go four points clear when they go against Granada on Monday.

The narrow victory was very important, and it came as a big surprise that Barcelona manager Quique Setien decided to leave out Luis Suarez from his starting lineup. Suarez, who has just returned from a long injury break, has been instrumental in many of the team's goals since the resumption of the league.

In the absence of Suarez, Lionel Messi failed to score but he did make an impact by assisting Vidal in the all-important winning goal. In the process, he became the first La Liga player to contribute 20 assists in a season since 2008-09. The previous record holder was also a former Barca player, Xavi Hernandez, as confirmed by the BBC.

Even though they could only manage to score the lone goal, Barcelona kept possession throughout 65% of the match. Valladolid had their chances, but poor finishing and a superb performance from Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied them at every opportunity.

The victory has allowed the Catalan giants to stay in the race and keep a mathematical chance of winning La Liga. If they had lost the match or only managed a draw, Real Madrid would have had the opportunity to clinch the title with a victory in their next match.

As it stands, Barcelona is hanging onto the hope that Los Blancos will have a major meltdown in their three remaining games. So far, Real Madrid hasn't dropped a single point since the resumption of La Liga after the three-month long coronavirus lockdown.

Real Madrid now has a good chance of clinching their first La Liga title since 2017, and since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. If they do take the title, it will be their 34th trophy. For now, all their efforts will be concentrated on the next match against Granada.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi notched his 20th assist of the season in Barcelona's 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday. AFP / CESAR MANSO