Messi goal helps Barcelona lead La Liga campaign

BARCELONA – Lionel Messi’s 92nd minute winner against Real Madrid has given Barcelona’s title bid a shot in the arm, coach Luis Enrique said yesterday, while warning his side that they can ill afford any slip-ups as they seek a third straight La Liga crown.

The Argentine’s last-gasp strike on Monday shunted the Catalans ahead of Real at the top of the standings due to their superior head-to-head record although Real, level with the leaders on 75 points, have a game in hand.

Barcelona will look to maintain their slender advantage at the top when they host Osasuna today before Real visit Deportivo La Coruna.

“It has a huge psychological value and it has clearly given us an important injection of morale,” Luis Enrique said of Messi’s goal, which was his 500th strike for Barcelona.

“It will serve as a stimulus from here until the end of the season but we will have to stay consistent right until the end.

“We both (Barca and Real) want to get all the remaining points, but I can’t control what can happen. All I can do is get us to the games in the best condition possible, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Basement club Osasuna have won only three games all season and will be relegated if they lose to Barca and Leganes beat Las Palmas, although Luis Enrique warned that his side have fared badly against weaker opposition this campaign. Three of Barca’s four league defeats have occurred against teams in the lower half of the table, including their only home defeat, to Alaves back in September.

“The games from here until the end of the season are the most dangerous as everyone is desperate for points and we have had problems with teams near the bottom, which makes this a dangerous game for us,” added Luis Enrique.

“As with every league game we have to compete again and show we are superior to our opponents. Three vital points are at stake and we’ll need to perform to our best.”

Barca will still be without Brazilian forward Neymar against Osasuna as he serves the last game of his three-match suspension.

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