- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

MADRID (AP) - That’s more like it.

Barcelona’s 8-0 rout of Deportivo La Coruna was a lot more typical than the three consecutive losses that sent the Spanish powerhouse into turmoil and raised doubts about whether it could still win the Spanish league.

Barcelona was back to its old self in Wednesday’s match at Deportivo, scoring at will and winning easily, just like it did for most of the season until the inexplicable recent collapse.

“We needed the victory,” striker Luis Suarez said on Thursday. “We had been suffering. It was about time to win again and achieve a good result, and getting a good result the way we did, playing very well and being much better than the rival. We feel a lot better now.”

The victory kept the Catalan club ahead of its Madrid rivals, which also won their games on Wednesday. Atletico Madrid won at Athletic Bilbao 1-0, and Real Madrid defeated Villarreal 3-0.

Atletico and Barcelona have 79 points with four matches left, while Real Madrid is one point behind.

“The victory was crucial for us,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We have a wonderful challenge ahead of us. And that challenge is to retain the league title. I’m sure it’s not going to be easy.”

Wednesday’s goalfest was also good for Barcelona’s star strikers - Suarez, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. They all scored against Deportivo, with Suarez finding the net four times to take his tally to 30 goals, one behind league leader Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi scored in his second consecutive game, and Neymar ended a five-game scoring slump.

“One of the best bits of news is that the three up front have found their scoring touch again,” Barcelona defender Marc Bartra said. “We have sent out a strong message.”

The huge win also was important to keep at bay the Madrid rivals, who have been frantically chasing the lead as the defending champions slipped.

“Nothing has changed,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We were one point away from them yesterday and we are one point away today. We will keep going with our ideas and our football. We will continue with what we have been doing recently, nothing has changed.”

Barcelona’s next game is at home against Sporting Gijon on Saturday. Gijon defeated Sevilla 2-1 on Wednesday to leave the relegation zone for the first time after eight rounds.

Earlier this season, Barcelona beat Gijon 3-1 with two goals by Messi and one by Suarez.

“We know we depend on ourselves,” Suarez said. “We know Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are the two toughest rivals in the league. None of the three should falter again. So again, we depend on ourselves, so if we win the games we have ahead, what our rivals do is not of our concern.”

Real Madrid, on a streak of eight league wins in a row, plays at Rayo Vallecano, a team it has beaten 12 straight times, including 10-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium this season. Cristiano Ronaldo sustained a minor muscle injury against Villarreal and is expected to be sidelined against Rayo so he can be fully fit for the team’s game at Manchester City in the semifinals of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Atletico Madrid, coming off eight victories in nine league games, hosts Malaga, a team it lost to 1-0 last year.

“I’ll repeat what I’ve already said, we only depend on ourselves,” Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said. “Our goal is to do our best, and whatever happens to Barcelona, good for them. We only have one option, which is to win.”


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni

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