Barca, Madrid battle it out as La Liga fight boils down to last games
With the La Liga title still up for grabs, Barcelona and Real Madrid have one game to play on Saturday with only one point separating them.football Updated: May 14, 2016 19:55 IST
It all comes down to the last match.
With the La Liga title still up for grabs, Barcelona and Real Madrid have one game to play on Saturday with only one point separating them.
Barcelona can retain its title, making it eight in 12 years and 24 in club history, with a victory at Granada. At the same time, Madrid visits Deportivo La Coruna hoping to culminate a spectacular comeback and get a huge boost of confidence for its Champions League final against Atletico Madrid on May 28.
“This match is custom made for Barcelona’s players. This type of game is what inspires teams,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said on Friday. “There are games when you have to motivate players, but there is more than enough motivation for this game. It is more about controlling the emotions.”
Barcelona hold a one-point advantage and the tiebreaker over Madrid, so the team coached by Zinedine Zidane needs to beat Deportivo and hope Barcelona drops points to add to its record 32 titles.
Zidane has asked his players to concentrate on their match, and said he would not follow the score from Barcelona’s game from the dugout while his team plays.
“I’m not going to find out what has happened (with Barcelona’s match) until the end,” Zidane said. “We don’t depend on ourselves, but we have to think only about our match and how we can win and get the three points. Then we will see.
“We have faith. We have won 11 games (in a row) and we are within one point with one match to go. We have to believe until the very last second.”
Here are some more things to know about Saturday’s decisive matches:
Last season, Luis Enrique matched Pep Guardiola’s treble of Champions League, Spanish league and Copa del Rey titles.
And his team was on course to repeat that feat until it fell to Atletico in the Champions League quarterfinals. That coincided with a three-game losing run in the Spanish league which let Madrid surge back into contention.
Now, Barcelona’s season, regardless of the outcome of the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla on May 22, rests on whether it can handle the pressure at Granada.
“I think we recovered the level of play that we are accustomed to several weeks ago,” Luis Enrique said. “Now, it is just like every week. We have to play better than Granada, create more chances and limit theirs to get as close as we can to taking the three points.”
The Zidane effect
Zidane made his debut as a top coach against Deportivo in January, when his new team thrilled the Santiago Bernabeu with a decisive 5-0 win that its fans hoped was a sign of bigger things to come.
Since replacing the fired Rafa Benitez, Zidane has guided the team to the Champions League final and a strong record of 16 wins, two draws and one loss in the Spanish league.
“I am happy, not only my work, but that of all my players,” Zidane said. “But I haven’t won anything yet. We will see after the season is over. We have two very important finals to play.”
Barcelona and Madrid claim six of the top seven goal scorers in the competition, and the title could depend on which trio has its day.
Barcelona’s Luis Suarez leads the league with 37 goals. The Uruguay striker is supported by Lionel Messi, who has scored 26 times, and Neymar with 24.
Suarez has scored 11 of those goals in the last four matches, helping Barcelona end a four-game winless slide that almost cost it the league lead with a run of four straight wins by the combined score of 21-0.
Cristiano Ronaldo tops Madrid’s scorers with 33 goals in the league. Karim Benzema has added 24, with Gareth Bale contributing 19, including a few critical winners in recent weeks.
Bale returned to practice after missing last weekend’s match with a leg injury. Zidane said that Ronaldo and Benzema were completely recovered from their nagging leg injuries as well.
Both Granada and Deportivo are safe from the relegation fight and without options of earning a berth in European competition next season.
Madrid has won on its last four visits to Deportivo, but Riazor Stadium is traditionally a tough ground for Madrid, where it has won 13 times in 49 visits.
Barcelona has dropped points on nine of 21 trips to Granada’s Los Carmenes Stadium.
If history matters, it’s on Barcelona’s side.
This will be the eighth time the two powerhouses have both arrived to the final round with options to win the title. Barcelona came out on top in six of the previous seven occasions.
The Catalan club edged Madrid in the inaugural 1929 league and did so again in 1960.
It got much worse for Madrid during back-to-back debacles in 1992 and 1993, when it lost an advantage to Barcelona in the final round with losses at Tenerife.
Madrid finally outdid Barcelona in 2007, while a Barcelona side coached by Guardiola protected its lead to win in 2010.