It all comes down to the final weekend in the Primera Division title race, with Zinedine Zidane’s men needing only to avoid defeat to clinch the title
It all comes down to the final weekend for Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Madrid need a draw at Malaga on Sunday to win La Liga for the 33rd time, and only the second in the Cristiano Ronaldo era. They are three points ahead of Barca, who play Eibar and have the head-to-head edge, meaning a win and Madrid defeat will make them champions.
Real have led the standings most of the way this year – or at least had games in hand with which to overtake Barca – and have lost just three league games all season, with only one – at Valencia – coming against a team in the bottom half of the table like Malaga.
The title would continue Zinedine Zidane’s stunning start to this top-level managerial career, with the Frenchman also having the chance to defend the Champions League two weeks from now – something that has never been done in the competition’s current format.
His counterpart Luis Enrique, on the other hand, will sit in the Camp Nou dugout for the final time when Eibar visit before attempting to say farewell with a trophy by beating Alaves in the Copa del Rey final.
It could also be goodbye for Antoine Griezmann, linked with a potential record-breaking summer move, and Atletico Madrid. They face Athletic Club, who are in a three-way battle with Villarreal and Real Sociedad for a Europa League spot.
Those clubs – or the one that finishes seventh, at least – will be cheering Barca on in the Copa final as a Blaugrana victory would pass Spain’s third Europa League qualification place down to the league table, allowing them all to participate next season.
At the bottom of the table, the fate of Granada, Osasuna and Sporting Gijon has already been decided. Those clubs will be playing in the Segunda Division next season, with Deportivo’s safety confirmed thanks to their superior head-to-head record over Sporting.
LA LIGA FIXTURES
Friday, May 19
Saturday, May 20
|16:00||Sporting Gijon||vs||Real Betis|
Saturday, May 20
|15:45||Celta Vigo||vs||Real Sociedad|
|15:45||Atletico Madrid||vs||Athletic Club|
LA LIGA TABLE
|1||Real Madrid (CL)||37||28||6||3||104||41||+63||90|
|3||Atletico Madrid (CL)||37||22||9||6||67||26||+41||75|
|18||Sporting Gijon (R)||37||7||9||21||40||70||-30||30|
The top four – and with it the teams that qualify for the Champions League – is already decided, but only two of Villarreal, Athletic Club and Real Sociedad will secure places in the Europa League, which go to the teams in fifth and sixth, this weekend. The team that finishes in seventh may still end up in Europe, however, as if Barcelona beat Alaves in the Copa del Rey final the Europa League place awarded to the winner of that competition will be passed on to the league.
Madrid are away to Malaga on Sunday and there are already a number of conspiracy theories being put forward by Barcelona fans ahead of that match at La Rosaleda, including question marks over the Andalusians’ coach and also the influence of a possible windfall for the Costa del Sol side from the Isco transfer in 2013.
Malaga are coached by Michel, a Madrid symbol in his playing days after coming through the youth system at Real and a man who said after beating Barca in La Liga last month: “Real Madrid will be the champions, but a Malaga man from Real Madrid has lent them a hand.”
“He was an amazing player, and he’s smart, he’s intelligent, but the results he’s been having this season is incredible. He can win the league and he can win the Champions League, so it’s very, very good results for just two years as a professional coach. So congratulations to Zidane.”
Gerard Pique missed the game at Las Palmas last weekend through illness and is a big doubt once again, while Javier Mascherano is sidelined after pulling a hamstring in the warm-up for that match.
Gareth Bale is still sidelined with a calf problem, while Dani Carvajal is also out after suffering a hamstring injury in the first leg of his side’s Champions League semi-final win over Atletico.
THE PICHICHI RACE
Barring a miraculous performance on Sunday from Luis Suarez, who is currently eight goals behind in second place, Lionel Messi will win his fourth Pichichi as La Liga’s top goalscorer.
Messi has 35 goals to Suarez’s 28 according to the official records, but Marca – who award the Pichichi – often come to different conclusions than the governing body over deflected and other contentious goals and have the Uruguayan on 27.
Cristiano Ronaldo is in third place on 24 goals, with Iago Aspas next on 18.
It will be Messi’s fourth Pichichi, moving him ahead of Ronaldo and tying Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas in the all-time standings. No player has won it more often than Telmo Zarra, who was the top scorer six times between 1944 and 1953.