Madrid: With another goal by Robert Lewandowski and yet another victory, Barcelona reached the 50-point mark and continued to show its strength going into the second half of the Spanish league.
Lewandowski ended his scoring drought in the league to help Barcelona defeat Real Betis 2-1 and increase its lead over Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Lewandowski sealed Barcelona's sixth straight victory in all competitions with his first league goal since October. He is the league's leading scorer with 14 goals. The Poland striker was making his return from a three-game suspension for disrespecting a referee in a match last year.
Raphinha opened the scoring for Barcelona, which now is eight points in front of second-place Madrid ahead of the rival's home match against Valencia on Thursday.
“We played a great match,” Barcelona coach Xavi said. “We are satisfied with the result and with how we played. We played well against a good team in a tough stadium.”
Barcelona won the league four times after reaching 50 points or more through 19 rounds. It only failed to lift the trophy in that situation in 2013-14.
“We are going through a good moment,” Raphinha said. “The points are a result of our effort. We remain confident for the rest of the season.”
Both midweek games involving Barcelona and Madrid were postponed from January because of the teams’ participation in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. Barcelona defeated Betis in a penalty shootout in the semifinals before eventually winning the final against Madrid. Madrid played Valencia in the other semifinal, also advancing in a shootout.
It was Betis' sixth straight league loss at home against Barcelona, which has won eight straight if counting the shootout win over Betis in the Super Cup.
Betis stayed in sixth place in the league, 19 points behind Barcelona. It is three points behind fourth-place Atletico Madrid in the final Champions League place. Manuel Pellegrini's team has won one of its last five games in all competitions.
Raphinha put Barcelona ahead with a touch from close range after a left-flank low cross by Alejandro Balde in the 65th minute. Lewandowski added to the lead with a shot from inside the area in the 80th, and Betis got on the board with an own-goal by Barcelona defender Jules Koundé in the 85th.
Lewandowski has five goals in his last five matches in all tournaments.
The win came after Barcelona closed the winter transfer window without any signings to boost its squad. It saw forward Memphis Depay move to Atletico and Héctor Bellerín join Sporting Lisbon. Veteran defender Gerard Piqué retired.
Betis lost defender Álex Moreno to Arsenal and forward Loren Morón to Las Palmas, but it signed former Leicester forward Ayoze Pérez.