Cristiano Ronaldo has seen his star eclipsed by Lionel Messi this season but the world’s most expensive player and Real Madrid can still have the last laugh by snatching the La Liga title from under Barcelona’s noses.
Reigning champions Barca lead their arch rivals by a point with two matches left and play at Champions League hopefuls Sevilla, in fourth, while Real host Athletic Bilbao, who are eighth and bidding for a Europa League berth.
Ronaldo’s hattrick against Real Mallorca on Wednesday put him third on the scoring chart with 25, one behind teammate Gonzalo Higuain, and Messi leads on 31 after his double against Tenerife on Tuesday.
Ronaldo became the world’s most expensive player when he joined Real from Manchester United for around 94 million euros ($126 million) at the end of last season, while Messi has been at Barca since he was 13.
A Barca victory in Sevilla and a slip-up by Real at home to Bilbao will guarantee Pep Guardiola’s side a second straight title as they won both this season’s Clasicos and head-to-head record separates sides if they are level on points.
Barca’s total of 93 from 36 matches is a record, surpassing the 92 accumulated by Real under Fabio Capello in the 1996-97 season when there were 22 teams rather than 20.
“Let’s hope Sevilla can take points off them, but our fate is not in our own hands,” Real coach Manuel Pellegrini said after the 4-1 win in Mallorca.
“Our obligation is to get to 98 points and we’ll see if Barca can get to 99.”
Five teams are deep in relegation trouble, with promoted Xerez hanging on by a technical thread after their 3-1 defeat at Valencia on Tuesday.
Tiny Xerez, who have an annual budget around 40 times smaller than Real and Barca, are bottom on 30 points and their superior head-to-head record over Malaga is the only thing that is saving them from going straight back down.