Barcelona finally shrugged off the ghost of Butarque but Atlético and Real had their own battles as La Liga’s threads all came together in Madrid
“The Ghost of Butarque: that’s a good name for a novel,” Ernesto Valverde said. It was coming up to midnight three days after Halloween and, Barcelona’s manager admitted, “everywhere we turned the Ghost of Butarque appeared.” His team were back in Madrid for the first time since September, the final leg of a Grand Day Out in the capital – Leganés v Atlético at 1pm, Real Madrid v Valladolid at 4.15pm, Rayo v Barcelona at 8.45pm – and it was happening again: the same feelings, the same fears. Back then, Barcelona lost at bottom-placed Leganés, their only defeat to date; five weeks on and 15km east, they were losing to second-bottom Rayo Vallecano.
Twice The Final Countdown had boomed out – the song, made all the more brilliant by not being Seven Nation Army, that celebrates every Rayo goal – and now they really were counting down. 2-1 up, Rayo were four minutes from their first home win all season; Barcelona were minutes from another defeat in Madrid, the team at the top beaten only by the bottom two.