Barcelona lose again at home, Real Madrid one point from the title

With an unprecedented third straight home defeat, Barcelona unwittingly pave the way for Real Madrid to clinch the Spanish league title.

Barcelona lost 1-0 to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, marking the first time they have lost three straight home games in all competitions in the same season, and leaving leaders Madrid within a point of winning their second league title in three seasons.

Madrid will have their first chance to lift the trophy on Saturday when they host Espanyol. Madrid are 15 points ahead of second-placed Barcelona with five rounds to go. The Catalan club have the best head-to-head tiebreaker.

Fans at the Camp Nou stadium booed the team after the final whistle.

“We struggled at home,” said Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets. “We conceded early and then it becomes difficult to recover. We are in a bad momentum at the moment.

Barcelona had won seven consecutive home matches in the league against Rayo, who scored the winner with a shot from Álvaro García after a long pass into the box in the seventh minute.

Barcelona chased the rest of the game but couldn’t capitalize on their many scoring chances.

The defeat left Barcelona level on points with third-placed Sevilla and just two points ahead of Atlético Madrid for the final Champions League spot. Second place is also important as it guarantees a place in the lucrative Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.

“We are in a difficult situation now,” said Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández. “We are still in the Champions League qualifying zone, but we are making it difficult for ourselves.”

Barcelona won at Real Sociedad on Thursday but had just suffered defeats to Cadiz in the league and Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League. They hadn’t lost two in a row at home since 2003, and had only lost three in a row once, between the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.

It was the second straight victory for Rayo after enduring a 13 game winless streak in the league. The Madrid club went from 15th to 11th with the victory, their second this season against Barcelona. Rayo’s victory on Thursday also came in Barcelona city at Espanyol.

Only Bayern Munich had beaten Barcelona twice this season, in the group stage of the Champions League.

The result all but guaranteed Rayo a place in the Premier League next season.

The match was postponed from January. No other league matches were played this weekend. Real Betis beat Valencia on penalties on Saturday to win the Copa del Rey.

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