Real Madrid will win La Liga on Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu if they avoid defeat to Espanyol as Carlo Ancelotti’s side look to secure the Spanish title before they face Manchester City next week in the Champions League. Madrid are 15 points clear of Barcelona and Sevilla in La Liga, meaning they need just one point from their remaining five league games to be crowned champions for the 35th time.
Given that they have been at the top since November, it should come as no surprise that Madrid land a league they have dominated for months, but the dips in form from Barcelona and Sevilla have offered the chance for confirmation earlier than expected.
The La Liga exit could also give Madrid a welcome boost ahead of the second leg of their semi-final against City on Wednesday, when they must make up for a 4-3 loss from the opening game in Manchester last week to advance to a new European final.
“The trophy is so close,” Ancelotti said at a press conference on Friday. “Since the end of the City match, the players only talk about tomorrow’s game. We have a match point and if the best tennis players have a match point, they win it.”
There is a good chance that Ancelotti will rotate his starting squad against Espanyol, keeping the return leg against Manchester City in mind.
Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior could be among those to be given a rest, while some changes will also be enforced, with David Alaba struggling with an injury as Eder Militao and Nacho Fernandez have both been suspended.
“We have some defensive problems,” Ancelotti said. “I will have to choose Jesus Vallejo, who has not played much but has always been a complete professional, and another central defender, which could be Casemiro.”
Should Real lose to 13th-seeded Espanyol, they could still take the title if neither Sevilla nor Barcelona win, with Sevilla playing at home against Cadiz on Friday, before Barcelona host Mallorca on Sunday night.
That scenario seems highly unlikely, but Barca have stalled in recent weeks, losing at home to Rayo Vallecano last weekend, marking three consecutive defeats at the Camp Nou.
“We deserved more, but we didn’t show the personality we needed to show,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said after that game.
“We are in a difficult situation. We are still in the race for the top four, but we made it difficult for ourselves. We have to keep fighting.”
Barca should still have enough to qualify for next season’s Champions League, as they hold a six-point lead over Copa del Rey winner Real Betis in fifth place.
But second place is up for grabs, with Sevilla leveling with Barca on points, while Atletico Madrid, in fourth place, are just two points behind. Atletico will play against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
“There are still five games to go, it will be very difficult and whichever team has the most energy will win the Champions League,” said Atlético coach Diego Simeone last weekend.
Betis will try to keep their hopes of finishing in the top four alive by beating Getafe on Monday night.
Manuel Pellegrini’s team will have to refocus after they won the club’s first trophy since 2005 by beating Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.
Villarreal, who lost 2-0 to Liverpool on weekdays in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final at Anfield, will travel to Alaves on Saturday, three days before the return leg at La Ceramica.
Real Sociedad, sixth, will face Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Matches (times GMT)
Seville v Cadiz (19:00)
Alaves v Villarreal (12:00), Real Madrid v Espanyol (14:15), Valencia v Levante (16:30), Athletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid (19:00)
Elche v Osasuna (12:00), Granada v Celta Vigo (12:15), Rayo Vallecano v Real Sociedad (4:30), Barcelona v Mallorca (19:00)
Getafe against Real Betis (19:00)
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)
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