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El Clasico: FC Barcelona Remains The Gold Standard

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With a gritty 4-3 away win at the Santiago Bernabeu over eternal rivals and league leaders Real Madrid, FC Barcelona have not only barged their way back into the title race, but back into Europe's elite

"i s’ha demostrat, i s’ha demostrat, que mai ningú no ens podrà tòrcer"

It was gritty, it was determined, it was ultimately overpowering; this may not have been FC Barcelona at their scintillating best, but it was enough. Real Madrid, despite their best efforts and despite twice taking the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu, succumbed to a 4-3 defeat, as Lionel Messi’s hat-trick secured three points and vital passage back into the title race for the visiting Blaugrana.

Pre-match there had been a lot of talk, so many column inches dedicated to the supposed fall of the Barcelona empire; their stranglehold on European football was slipping, and it was claimed that Real Madrid were primed to deliver the coup de grâce tonight. Alas, the Barcelona phoenix rose from the ashes to send a clear message to the rest of La Liga and indeed world football as a whole: this team isn’t finished yet.

There are question marks of course; the defense was ultimately poor as evidenced by the scoreline. Notwithstanding Gerard Piqué, this was a collective shambles, while Neymar and Cesc Fàbregas did little to convince that they merited a starting place, even if the former won a crucial penalty to enable Messi to tie the teams at 3-3. But the positives were also clear for all to see. Lionel Messi was a colossus, back to his very best scything his way through the Real Madrid defense at will. Andrés Iniesta has truly recovered the form that saw him crowned the UEFA Best Player in Europe in 2012 while his midfield partner Xavi seems impervious to the effects of time.

Manchester City, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid; they’ve all tried to knock Barcelona off their perch this season and not once have they succeeded. We have every reason to be proud of this team and their accomplishments this season; who knows, maybe the quadruple is still on after all...