Defiant Real Madrid have warned Barcelona they intend to fight the Catalan giants all the way for the Primera Division title despite last night's potentially crucial setback at the Bernabeu.
Madrid went into the encounter holding a slight advantage at the top of the table courtesy of their better goal difference, but they are now three points behind their arch rivals after slumping to a 2-0 loss.
To make matters worse for the capital club, Barca now also boast the better head-to-head record having also won 1-0 at the Nou Camp earlier this season, and that means Madrid need the defending champions to drop points in at least two of their remaining seven games if they are to pip Pep Guardiola's men to the championship.
Last term Madrid capitulated after being thrashed 6-2 in the corresponding fixture, losing each of their final five games and in the process their Primera Division title, having prior to 'El Clasico' trimmed Barca's lead at the summit from 12 points to four following a remarkable run of results. Madrid were also in stunning form going into last night's game, with 12 successive league wins behind them and a 100% record at home with 15 victories out of 15, and there is the danger now that the fall-out from losing their fourth successive 'Clasico' could spell the end of the club's challenge.
Showing fighting spirit
Madrid's players insist otherwise, however. "Barcelona were much better than us, but we need to lift our heads because there are seven games left," said Cristiano Ronaldo. "If we win the league you cannot talk about failure. We need to believe it's possible. We're professionals and you cannot give up. We can win the league. It's never good to lose but we have to learn from the defeats. Sometimes we win and others we lose, but we'll see what happens at the end."
Defender Sergio Ramos added: "The team are going to continue fighting to the death and we have to lift ourselves because there is still a lot of the league left."
The Spain international was also impressed by Barca, who took the lead midway through the first half when Lionel Messi slotted home his 40th goal of the season and then sealed the triumph just after half-time with a breakaway goal from Pedro Rodriguez. "Barcelona played an almost perfect match tactically," said Ramos.