Sunday, 8 May 2016

Judgement day: What Barcelona, Atletico and Madrid need to win La Liga

Judgement day: What Barcelona, Atletico and Madrid need to win La Liga
The three teams are all in action at 17:00 CET on Sunday as the title race reaches its penultimate hurdle. Here, Sportmasta looks at the run-in for each and the possible permutations

A fantastic finale awaits in La Liga. Barcelona, Atletico and Real Madrid can all still win Spain's Primera Division, but with only two rounds remaining and one point still separating the top three teams, there is now no margin for error at all.

Barcelona's destiny is in their own hands. Luis Enrique's side allowed the two capital clubs back into the race with three consecutive defeats in La Liga recently, but two victories in their final fixtures against Espanyol and Granada will see the Catalans claim their sixth title in eight seasons.

The Blaugrana could even win it on Sunday, but only if they beat Espanyol in the derby at Camp Nou, Atletico lose at Levante and Madrid fail to overcome Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu. All three are in action at 17:00 CET and the title is set to go down to the final round of matches for the first time since 2013-14.

"Only we can be champions tomorrow," Luis Enrique said in his pre-match press conference on Saturday. And he added: "I'm not worried about the rival; I'm only concerned with being better than Espanyol on the pitch."

Barca and Espanyol have met three times already this term, with two wins for the Blaugrana (both in the Copa del Rey) and a goalless draw in La Liga - ill-tempered matches that included a tunnel brawl at Camp Nou, two red cards for the visitors, a subsequent ban for Luis Suarez, then a pig's head and also some distasteful banners aimed at Shakira at Cornella.

Espanyol are already safe from relegation, but the city's second team are keen to deny their rivals the title - just like they did in this fixture in 2006-07.

That match saw Raul Tamudo score twice for the Pericos in a 2-2 draw which allowed Madrid back into the race and Fabio Capello's side stole the title from Barca on the final day of the season.

The former Spain striker's intervention that night (in which Lionel Messi also scored with his hand in another goal compared to Diego Maradona) became known as the "Tamudazo" and current Espanyol forward Felipe Caicedo admitted this week that he would like to produce something similar.

"Caicedazo! I like that," he said. "It sounds good. It's just another game of football, but we have the chance to do something special and historic."

For his part, however, Luis Enrique said: "I couldn't tell you when the 'Tamudazo' was and I am not interested in the slightest." 

FULL STORY | Luis Enrique not worried by Espanyol aggression

Barca are currently top with 85 points, leading Atletico thanks to their superior head-to-head record in the two games against Diego Simeone's side. And if they were to finish level with Real at the end of the season, Luis Enrique's men would also win it on the head-to-head versus Los Blancos.

After Espanyol, Barca travel to Granada next Sunday and that match could provide another tough test given that the Andalusians are fighting for survival at the other end of La Liga. On paper, however, Barca are big favourites to win both of their last two games.

Atletico, meanwhile, are in action away to Levante in the penultimate round of matches. Like Espanyol, the Valencia-based side have nothing much to play for now in La Liga having already been relegated, but recent meetings have been bad-tempered and the Rojiblancos have only won five of their 13 games at the Ciutat de Valencia.
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