Dani Alves says Real Madrid are lucky they already hold a double-digit margin atop LaLiga following Barcelona's 1-0 win away to Real Sociedad on Thursday.
Barca have lost only two LaLiga games since Xavi took over from Ronald Koeman but they have been playing an almost impossible game of catch up, winning only four of the opening 12 games and allowing Real Madrid to streak ahead.
Madrid are 15 points up on second-placed Barcelona, who have a game in hand, but even with six games to go for the latter the title race is effectively over.
Claiming eight of their last 10 domestic games, including a 4-0 demolition of the soon-to-be champions at the Santiago Bernabeu, the 38-year-old believes Real Madrid are fortunate Barcelona did not get their act together earlier.
"Lucky for them [Real Madrid] we haven't arrived earlier," Alves told Movistar+ post-match. "We always plan to compete differently but in the end, life is like that. We arrived late and had to make a tremendous effort to take the advantage over them.
"We already knew it was very difficult due to the state of the rival and the situation, but I insist, lucky for them that we have not arrived earlier."
The Anoeta had been a traditionally tricky venue for Barcelona, but they have now not lost there in LaLiga since renovations on the stadium were completed in 2019.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goal in the 11th minute ultimately proved the difference, but the Brazilian defender believes claiming the three points from San Sebastian was not a simple task.
"We knew it was going to be difficult, because it's always very difficult here," Alves said. "The stadium is very tight, we controlled a little more in the first half and then we lowered the intensity but you have to know how to suffer. In football it's hard to win, but you win.
"We wanted to balance the team a little more and the goal came and decided the game. You have to know how to suffer to win games."