Barcelona boss Quique Setien is clinging to the hope Real Madrid will falter to allow for a late twist in the title race.
Despite holding a narrow LaLiga lead when the season resumed, Barcelona have slipped four points behind their great rivals and only four rounds of games remain.
A coronation for Zinedine Zidane’s team appears inevitable, given they have won seven straight fixtures since the league’s suspension ended.
But Setien is refusing to wave the white flag, saying on Tuesday: “Of course we can still win LaLiga. Mathematics says it. We have to keep hope until the final day.
“We have to look at what we can do. Win, leave good feelings, make progress. And if not in this situation, everything we do is worth it for the next one.”
Should Barcelona take the title battle down to the final day, that would be a small triumph in itself given current circumstances.
They have the Champions League resumption to come in August, then a new LaLiga season after that, and Setien wants to see signs of progress from a team who have struggled since COVID-19 caused the 2019-20 campaign to be stalled for three months.
Victory in the home derby against Espanyol on Wednesday is surely imperative.
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has indicated he plans to keep Setien on for the 2020-21 season, with the coach speaking of “the circus that is football” as speculation surrounded his position.
“The club are happy with the work we do, I focus on that,” he said in a news conference. “I don’t value whether we win a game or lose others. I don’t live daily, I work with more perspective.
“We are quite happy, as I have said on numerous occasions. Results are one thing and the feelings are another.”
Setien feels his team are performing better than their results have been indicating, speaking of “very good moments” in the matches where Barcelona have dropped points. Three draws, alongside the four wins they have achieved since LaLiga returned, have been costly.
Coach Setien was cheered by Antoine Griezmann’s delicious chip in Sunday’s 4-1 win at Villarreal, where the Frenchman was given a more central attacking role than in previous games and thrived on the responsibility.
“He has enough ability to show his level,” Setien said. “The other day there was a moment of inspiration and the players who played on the inside and the threat on the outside were closely linked. Sergi Roberto helped and did things very well.”