kayode OGUNDARE @kaybaba99:
For years, football purists have envisaged a situation where the title for the Spanish Primera Liga will go to the wire with all three giants fighting tooth and nail for every point and that prayer is about to be answered this season with the top three all separated by just one solitary point with just five games left to play.
Barcelona, suffering a rare form of meltdown at such a critical period in their season and, having led the league for the greater part of the season, are under the biggest pressure to win particularly given the fact that they have relinquished their European title.
However, Luis Enrique remained positive before the trip to Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday, after which they will have just four games left in the title race.
‘I’m convinced we’re going to win the league, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be sat here,’ he told a news conference on Tuesday. ‘I like adversity, that’s how I am. I want to turn this around, win tomorrow and put on a show. I want to delight the fans who are behind us and can’t explain this situation.’
Deportivo La Coruna (A)
Sporting Gijon (H)
Real Betis (A)
The Catalans have won just one of their last six games in all competitions with their famed attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr (MSN) scoring a miserly four goals in their last six games compared to 13 in the previous four.
Good news for Barca is that they are unencumbered by the pressures and exertions of playing in Europe unlike their rivals. They are in the Copa del Rey Final but that will be at the end of the seaon when the league winner would have been decided.
More good news, dear Blaugranes, Barca will be awarded the title in the event they finish on the same points tally with any of their rivals as they hold a better head-to-head advantage over the chasing duo.
The Rojiblancos have shown that they are one of Europe’s most improved teams over the last couple of years. A Liga title and UEFA Champions League final appearance has effectively set up Atleti as Spain’s third superpower – a counter-force to the dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Atletico know they have got their work cut out: win all of your remaining five games and hope Barcelona slip up so you can pounce. Diego Simeone takes his team to San Mames to face Athletic Bilbao knowing what to do.
“I am sure that we do not depend on anyone, we depend on ourselves. Outdoing ourselves is the first step, an objective was to surpass our performance last season and we are on our way to doing that.”
Athletic Bilbao (A)
Rayo Vallecano (H)
Celta Vigo (H)
Atleti have won their last three games in all competitions and are heartened by the scoring resurgence of Fernando Torres as well as the continued good health of French Magician Antoine Griezmann. Koke is also massive in the middle as well as the experienced head of Diego Godin in defence.
European engagements could serve as a distraction for the Rojiblancos, especially if Simeone chose not to prioritise the La Liga which he won three seasons ago over the Champions League, which he’s still chasing.
From a team lilting badly under the sacked Rafa Benitez, Real Madrid have witnessed a massive turn around to now become contenders for not just La Liga –where they trail the leading duo by just a point – to odds-on favourites for the European crown, especially with the elimination of bitter rivals Barcelona.
Manager Zinedine Zidane believes Barca and Atleti are still in the driving seat, but challenged his team to win their remaining five matches to give themselves the best possible chance of a first league title since 2012.
“We are capable to win both titles, but it doesn’t mean anything. We will fight until the last minute and I assure you we will work until the end. I think that Barcelona and Atletico can win every game. I have always said that we must first move ahead of Atletico. They [Barca] are now tied with Atletico.”
Rayo Vallecano (A)
Real Sociedad (A)
Los Blancos rich vein of form has seen them win nine of their last 10 games in all competitions – the 2-0 loss at Wolfsburg being their only loss – and they appear capable of overtaking both Atletico and Barcelona, should either of them falter.
They must, however, be wary of confronting a tricky Manchester City side in a two-legged semi-final which could adversely affect their La Liga fortunes.
If Barca can beat Deportivo, who have only won four of their 16 home games so far this season, then they will pile the pressure back on Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid who both kick-off later on Wednesday night.
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