4 Key Remaining Fixtures in Barcelona's Liga Title Quest

Jason PettigroveContributor IJanuary 22, 2016

4 Key Remaining Fixtures in Barcelona's Liga Title Quest

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    Can Lionel Messi author a win over Atletico Madrid at the end of the month?
    Can Lionel Messi author a win over Atletico Madrid at the end of the month?GERARD JULIEN/Getty Images

    At this point in time, Barcelona still remain in the box seat in La Liga for 2015/16—win their game in hand and the Catalans will be top of the pile.

    However, there are a handful of fixtures between now and the end of the campaign that will be key to Barca's hopes of retaining the title.

    If the Blaugrana can win those and not slip up in the others, then there's every chance that Andres Iniesta will have his hands on the prize come May.

    Let's take a look at four key games in particular.

Atletico Madrid

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    The first of the crunch games comes against Atletico Madrid at the end of January.
    The first of the crunch games comes against Atletico Madrid at the end of January.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    The first of the crunch games comes at the end of January when Atletico Madrid are the visitors to the Camp Nou.

    Diego Simeone's side are playing above themselves again this season, and even though players like Jackson Martinez haven't lived up to their expectations, others have more than made up for it.

    Antoine Griezmann in particular wouldn't look out of place at Barca, and the Frenchman has carried his team-mates at times.

    Of particular interest will be the battle between Uruguay captain Diego Godin and centre-forward Luis Suarez, a contest where no quarter will be asked nor given.

    If the status quo has remained the same by the time of this game, then Atleti will know that a win for them would keep them clear at the summit even if Barca were to then win their game in hand.

    Simeone doesn't normally need to motivate his players but that will give them added impetus to go for the jugular.

    It won't be an easy task, however. 

    Barca have won the last five games between the sides, and this match takes place just five days before the 10-year anniversary of the last time the Rojiblancos won at the Camp Nou, per Fussball Wettpoint.

Sevilla

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    Barcelona will be out for revenge after losing to Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan earlier in the season.
    Barcelona will be out for revenge after losing to Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan earlier in the season.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    It took Unai Emery over 20 attempts to finally get the better of Barcelona as a manager, but he managed it with Sevilla earlier this season.

    Still well away from a Champions League spot at this point, the Andalusians know that a Europa League spot is well within their grasp, a competition they've flourished in.

    The Sevilla defeat came on October 3 and was actually Barca's last in all competitions, per WhoScored.com

    They arrive at the Camp Nou at the end of February, and Luis Enrique will be keen to redress the balance.

    By that point of the season, the pressure could be on for the Catalans, and if Emery has his way, Sevilla's battling qualities will knock the Blaugrana out of their stride again.

Villarreal

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    A visit to El Madrigal won't be easy for the Catalans.
    A visit to El Madrigal won't be easy for the Catalans.David Ramos/Getty Images

    Villarreal are the form team in the league at present, and if they continue in the same vein, a trip to El Madrigalsandwiched between the Champions League last-16 second leg against Arsenal and a second El Clasicowill be a nightmare fixture for Barca.

    The Yellow Submarine have always proved the toughest of opponents for the Catalans, and as they are proving again in this campaign, they're looking likely to go the distance.

    In the top four on merit, and having led the table for a point earlier in the season, Villarreal are hanging on the coat tails of the teams at the top.

    Three points lost in this fixture could severely dent Barca's aspirations if things haven't changed too much before the meeting.

    Like Enrique's Barca, Marcelino's Villarreal play without fear, and it should make for an intoxicating spectacle.

Real Madrid

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    Will Lionel Messi or Gareth Bale be decisive in the second El Clasico of the season?
    Will Lionel Messi or Gareth Bale be decisive in the second El Clasico of the season?Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    The big one. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid is when the rest of the football world stands still and admires.

    Depending how well Zinedine Zidane has settled in to his managerial position at Los Blancos, results will have determined just how much is riding on this game come kick-off time at the start of April.

    If Real play anywhere near as badly as they did at the Santiago Bernabeu, then Barca will claim an easy three points.

    The intensity that authors many of their games just wasn't there in the last Clasico, and the 4-0 Barca win could easily have been doubled.

    There will still be seven league games to play after this one, so the result won't decide anything. But that won't matter to any of the players from either side.

    A classic Clasico is in prospect.