Barcelona beat city rivals Espanyol 2-0 on Sunday to keep them on target to achieve 100 points and match Real Madrid’s La Liga record.
Alexis Sanchez’s first-half strike earned the Liga champions their 31st victory this season at Cornelia El-Prat, the forward’s fourth goal in as many games securing their 14th win on their travels.
Pedro added a second in the closing minutes to extend Barcelona’s unbeaten record against Espanyol to eight games, although they should have recorded a larger winning margin.
Tito Vilanova made four changes to the side that beat Real Valladolid in their previous outing with Dani Alves, Thiago Alcantara, Alex Song and Sanchez returning to the starting line-up.
Espanyol made three changes for their final home game of the season; Joan Capdevilla, Victor Sanchez and Juan Forlin were all recalled by Javier Aguirre.
The visitors had the perfect start to the match as Sanchez grabbed his eighth goal of the season after a perfect one-two with David Villa.
The Chilean received the ball on the left-hand side of the penalty area, his pass to Villa was beautifully flicked back to him inside the area. Sanchez took the ball on his chest and, as the ball dropped to his feet, he jinked around the challenges before curling the ball into the back of Cristian Alvarez’s net.
Barcelona dominated large amounts of possession during the opening half without ever really threatening the Espanyol goal.
Cesc Fabregas crashed a shot against the left-hand post shortly after Sanchez’s opener and Andres Iniesta had a chance before the break but his volley swerved wide of goal.
At the other end, Victor Valdes’ only issue was a back-pass from Pique that he had to head away, but the hosts were unable to capitalise on the keeper’s poor position.
Villa should have doubled Barcelona’s lead nine minutes after the break when he was set up perfectly by Fabregas inside the penalty area. The striker jinked past his marker and looked certain to score but inexplicably fired wide with the goal gaping.
The front three of the 22-time Liga winners were full of running and their movement caused problems for the home defence, but a lack of clinical finishing let them down as Alvarez was rarely tested despite having to be alert at all times.
With 10 minutes to play Wakaso Mubarak earned himself two yellow cards in as many seconds as he protested a decision to award Barcelona a free-kick for a foul on Sanchez, the Ghanaian made his feelings clear which brought the first card, and when he appeared to push the referee, he was given his marching orders.
Substitute Pedro added the second goal with five minutes to play, knocking a neat interchange with fellow sub Xavi and poking the ball into the back of the net for his second goal in as many games.