Luis Suarez calls on Barcelona to finish strong after win over Espanyol closes gap on Real Madrid
Victory in Catalan derby sends local rivals crashing out of La Liga for first time in 26 years
Luis Suarez has said Barcelona have to win their final three matches if they are to retain their Primeira Liga title after the Uruguayan striker scored the decisive goal against Espanyol to reduce the gap on leaders Real Madrid to on point.
Suarez struck in the 53rd minute of a game that Barca largely dominated, although city rivals Espanyol had their chances on the break, despite only seeing 25 per cent of the ball.
The result also confirmed Espanyol's relegation from La Liga.
A cagey contest at Camp Nou exploded into life for six frantic minutes at the start of the second half as Ansu Fati and Pol Lozano were sent off, leaving each side with 10 men before Suarez struck.
The 1-0 victory applies the pressure on Real Madrid, who can restore their four-point advantage if they beat Alaves on Friday evening.
Espanyol, rooted to the bottom of the table, will be relegated. They sit 11 points adrift of safety with only three games left to play.
"We have to win our next three games," said Suarez. "What Madrid do is up to them. If they drop points, fantastic. We just have to be there if they do."
Espanyol needed to win but have not beaten Barcelona in the league since 2009 when Mauricio Pochettino was in charge.
Rufete, the team's fourth manager this season, accepted Messi's commiserations at the final whistle with a look of resignation.
Only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have spent more seasons in the top flight than Espanyol, who after 26 consecutive campaigns there must now rebuild.
"We ask forgiveness from our fans," said Javi Lopez. "We know these are tough moments for us but for our fans as well. This season nothing has gone right. It's our fault and we are committed to coming back stronger."
Updated: July 9, 2020 10:07 AM