Record-breaking Barca back on track after beating Valencia 2-1

Luis Suarez celebrates scoring Barcelona's opening goal in their 2-1 win over Valencia. Manu Fernandez  AP

Umtiti headed home Coutinho's corner to give Barcelona a two-goal cushion and some breathing space after 51 minutes.

Barca need seven more points to seal the Spanish title, but they face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final next weekend as they seek a domestic double.

A rainy day and a subdued crowd of just 69,544 spectators - well short of the 99,354 capacity - was reflected in a turgid opening spell for Barca, until Suarez struck to break the deadlock and restore some cheer to the stands 15 minutes in.

Ernesto Valverde's side lead nearest challengers Atletico Madrid by 14 points in the standings, with Atletico hosting Levante and fourth-placed Real visiting basement club Malaga on Sunday.

Valverde said: 'It's not the week to talk about records but we should be positive. But it was a fundamental win in many ways.

Even that would feel like a slight let down after European elimination, but this has been a successful year with the prospect now, with six league games to go of the campaign, of a first ever unbeaten season.

Rodrigo should have punished an Umtiti error early in the second half but his effort was cleared off the line by Gerard Pique after Santi Mina had played him into clear space in the penalty area.

The German goalkeeper ran himself into trouble as he sent a pass straight at the feet of Valencia forward Rodrigo but redeemed himself by tipping the shot on to the crossbar and behind.

"The atmosphere around the club this week has been a bit gloomy and we needed to put the brakes on that so I have to congratulate the players because it's not been easy", added Valverde.

Valencia started the game well and threatened Barcelona goal twice in the first five minutes. "We wanted to reach the final".

Both teams played attacking of football but Valencia keeper, Neto, was kept busy by the menacing Catalan forwards.

Coutinho was forced to sit out of Barcelona's midweek Champions League exit because he is cup tied, but the midfielder was delighted to return to help his side take one giant step towards securing the league title.

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