Henry rescues point
Barcelona dropped two vital points in the Spanish title race on Saturday in a 2-2 draw at Valencia where substitute Thierry Henry grabbed a late equaliser.
It means champions Real Madrid, now seven points behind, can close to within four points at the summit with victory at Sevilla on Sunday and then try to beat their rivals in next Saturday's 'El Clasico' at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Dutch midfielder Hedwiges Maduro and winger Pablo Hernandez scored twice in as many minutes to go 2-1 up after Barcelona had taken the lead through Lionel Messi on 24 minutes.
Henry scored in the 86th minute to salvage a point for Barcelona who had a 12-point lead over Real back in mid-December, but could find themselves just four ahead by next weekend.
"Getting a point is better than losing isn't it?" said Henry. "This Barcelona team has the quality and also the courage that you need to succeed."
Barcelona face a testing week with Chelsea at Camp Nou on Tuesday in the Champions League semifinal first leg before the title duel with Real four days later.
Saturday's result kept Valencia in fourth, a point behind third-placed Sevilla.
Messi missed the 4-0 midweek thrashing of Sevilla, but returned to the starting line-up with Andres Iniesta switching to the left while Henry, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 rout of Valencia back in December, was on the bench.
Xavi, Samuel Eto'o, Sergi Busquets and Dani Alves all walked a yellow card tightrope knowing a booking would rule them out of next Saturday's crunch clash against Real.
Stung by their 4-0 drubbing at Camp Nou, Valencia came out of the blocks at a frenetic pace putting pressure on the visitors' slick passing game.
But with 24 minutes gone, Barcelona got the breakthrough with Iniesta keeping his composure metres from goal to pick out Messi rather than trying to squeeze the ball past former Real Madrid goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez.
Messi cooly rolled in his 21st goal but it was Iniesta's composure which made the goal.
Barcelona had not conceded in the league since March 1 so it was a tall order for Valencia, but the hosts stunned the leaders with two goals in as many minutes.
In the 43rd minute, Pep Guardiola's side failed to defend a whipped-in corner with goalkeeper Victor Valdes and Carlos Puyol going for the same ball and Maduro bundling the ball in with his thigh.
It broke Valdes's run of seven consecutive clean sheets and he conceded again 120 seconds later when Hernandez played a neat one-two before slotting home.
Henry came on for Seydou Keita just after the hour and forced a fine save from Sanchez.
Sanchez was at fault for the equaliser four minutes from time, however, failing to punch clear and Henry lobbed the ball in.
Real travel to Sevilla on Sunday when all eyes will be on coach Juande Ramos as he returns to his old club, where he won successive UEFA Cups in 2006 and 2007, for the first time.
Ramos and Real are still reeling from a 10-match ban handed out to Portuguese defender Pepe on Friday for violent conduct in the 3-2 win over Getafe last week and the player will now sit out the remainder of the season.
Earlier on Saturday UEFA Cup rivals Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga shared the points in a 1-1 draw with Malaga left the more disappointed after missing an 88th minute penalty.
Deportivo goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia dived to his right to save Apono's late spot-kick.
Malaga, the suprise package of the season after being promoted, stay a point above Deportivo in sixth place.
Elsewhere, time is running out for Numancia to save themselves from an immediate return to the second division with the Soria club losing 2-1 at Almeria to stay bottom, five points from safety.
Numancia sensationally beat Barcelona 1-0 on the opening day of the season but have found the tough going ever since.