Luis Suarez calls on Barcelona to finish strong after win over Espanyol closes gap on Real Madrid

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Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring for Barcelona against Espanyol. EPA

Luis Suarez celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal for Barcelona against Espanyol. AP Photo

Barcelona's Martin Braithwaite in action against Espanyol's David Lopez. EPA

Barcelona manager Quique Setien and forward Lionel Messi. EPA

Barcelona's Sergio Roberto jumps over Espanyol's Didac Vila. EPA

Barcelona's Clement Lenglet jumps for a header against Espanyol's Raul De Tomas. AP Photo

Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring for Barcelona against Espanyol. Reuters

Barcelona forward Ansu Fati is shown a red car by the referee. Getty Images

Pol Lozano of Espanyol is shown a red car by the referee. Getty Images

Barcelona's Lionel Messi runs for the ball next to Espanyol's David Lopez. AP Photo

Barcelona's Lionel Messi runs with the ball against Espanyol's Marc Roca, Fernando Calero and Bernardo Espinosa, left. AP Photo

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reaches for the ball against Espanyol. AP Photo

Lionel Messi competes for the ball with David Lopez. Getty Images

Lionel Messi shrugs off a challenge from Espanyol's Marc Roca. AFP

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The National

July 9, 2020

July 9, 2020

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Luis Suarez has said Barcelona have to win their final three matches if they are to retain their Primeira Liga title after the Uruguayan striker scored the decisive goal against Espanyol to reduce the gap on leaders Real Madrid to on point.

Suarez struck in the 53rd minute of a game that Barca largely dominated, although city rivals Espanyol had their chances on the break, despite only seeing 25 per cent of the ball.

The result also confirmed Espanyol's relegation from La Liga.

A cagey contest at Camp Nou exploded into life for six frantic minutes at the start of the second half as Ansu Fati and Pol Lozano were sent off, leaving each side with 10 men before Suarez struck.

The 1-0 victory applies the pressure on Real Madrid, who can restore their four-point advantage if they beat Alaves on Friday evening.

Espanyol, rooted to the bottom of the table, will be relegated. They sit 11 points adrift of safety with only three games left to play.

"We have to win our next three games," said Suarez. "What Madrid do is up to them. If they drop points, fantastic. We just have to be there if they do."

Espanyol needed to win but have not beaten Barcelona in the league since 2009 when Mauricio Pochettino was in charge.

Rufete, the team's fourth manager this season, accepted Messi's commiserations at the final whistle with a look of resignation.

Only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have spent more seasons in the top flight than Espanyol, who after 26 consecutive campaigns there must now rebuild.

"We ask forgiveness from our fans," said Javi Lopez. "We know these are tough moments for us but for our fans as well. This season nothing has gone right. It's our fault and we are committed to coming back stronger."

Updated: July 9, 2020 10:07 AM

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