Barca, Madrid In Title Showdown | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Barca, Madrid In Title Showdown

Posted: May 14, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

As if it needed any more spice, the battle between Spain’s top two for the La Liga crown is causing controversy amid talk of possible incentive payments and dubious officiating.
With just one round remaining in La Liga, a single point separates Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table. Everything will be decided on this spectacular Saturday evening – and the build-up in Spain has been intense.
All of this seemed so unlikely just a few weeks back. Ahead of the Clasico clash at Camp Nou last month, Barca had gone unbeaten in 39 matches in all competitions and led La Liga by nine points from Atletico and 10 from Real Madrid. Spain’s top flight is boring, many moaned. Not now.
Three consecutive Barca defeats let both Atletico and Madrid back in the race with a few rounds left, and although Diego Simeone’s side saw their hopes ended with a surprise defeat at relegated Levante on Sunday, Madrid could still catch the champions in what promises to be a thrilling climax this weekend.
Barca is a point clear as it travels to Granada, with Madrid in action away to Deportivo La Coruna at the same time. Atletico, in third, is at home to Celta Vigo, but can come second at best due to its inferior head-to-head record against Barcelona.
Madrid beat Valencia 3-2 on Sunday, but was hanging on at the end after Andre Gomes’ goal nine minutes from time and an equaliser by the visitors would have seen Barca crowned champions. But Real survived to secure an 11th straight victory in La Liga and ensure a tense final today.
“We have to continue winning points and hope Granada do well in their game,” Zidane said afterwards. “We’ll do what we can to win our game. Now we are second, there’s one game left and anything could happen – you never know in football. We have to be aware of that fight until the final whistle.”
Madrid had hoped that Espanyol could help it out in the Catalan derby on Sunday, but Barca thrashed its local rivals 5-0 at Camp Nou and there was to be no repeat of what happened in 2006-07, when Raul Tamudo’s double frustrated the Blaugrana and allowed Los Blancos to move top and ultimately claim the title.
“With the number of days we have spent as leaders, we deserve the league title and I hope we can be precise in the final game to win it,” Luis Enrique said on Sunday. “But no, the race is not over – you just have to look at what happened with Atletico today. The only team relegated beat one of the best in Spain and Europe.”
Granada is already safe from relegation after thrashing Sevilla 4-1 away from home last weekend, while Madrid’s next rival Deportivo also secured survival by beating Villarreal 2-0 at El Madrigal. Nevertheless, Levante was already down when it ended Atletico’s aspirations and neither Barca nor Madrid will be taking victory for granted in their final fixture in La Liga.