FC Barcelona took a big risk on Monday as they flirted with the possibility of captain Lionel Messi being suspended for the El Clasico next weekend. He was already sitting on a yellow card from their previous match and he had to be careful not to pick up another one against Real Valladolid. He did come away unscathed but not after complaining that the referee was on a mission to show him a card.
Barcelona will be facing bitter rivals Real Madrid this weekend in a match that could determine this season's La Liga champions. The Argentine would have been ruled out if he picked up a yellow, and Marca reports that he was heard saying that referee Santiago Jaime Latre was looking for a way to book him.
"The referee wants to give me a yellow card, incredible," Messi reportedly told club delegate Carles Naval during the half-time break.
Luckily for him, that card never came. Instead, it was Real Valladolid who were reduced to 10 men in the second half after Oscar Plano was shown a straight red. Barcelona eventually scored a late winner via Ousmane Dembele in the dramatic final minute of regulation time.
Both sides had other chances, and Valladolid will feel robbed after an apparent handball by Jordi Alba in the 65th minute. No penalty was given, and all three points were eventually taken home by the Catalans.
The victory brings Barcelona to just one point behind Atletico Madrid at the top of the table. They now have a must-win match against Real Madrid who are just a further two points behind.
If they win El Clasico, they have a chance to win the title if they can also beat Atletico next month. Of course, that is also provided that they don't drop any more points for the rest of the season. A La Liga title will surely boost their hopes of convincing Lionel Messi to stay, and that will be weighing down on the minds of all the players and club management in the coming crucial weeks.