Jose Mourinho's men need to beat Espanyol at Cornella on Saturday night to postpone their rivals' celebrations, but the Blaugrana can clinch the title at Atletico on SundayANALYSIS
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
If Real Madrid fail to beat Espanyol on Saturday evening at Cornella, Barcelona will be crowned champions of La Liga.
The scenario means the Blancos can lose the Spanish title to their fiercest rivals in Barcelona, with Tito Vilanova's team arriving in the capital to face Atletico Madrid as champions on Sunday. But if Real win at Espanyol (as they usually do), Barca can claim the championship crown by beating Diego Simeone's side at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday evening.
Barca, with four league matches left to play, need just two more points to win La Liga. They lead Madrid (with just three games remaining) by eight points, so Mourinho's men must beat Espanyol at Cornella on Saturday to delay Catalan celebrations. If that happens, the Blaugrana will need to defeat Atletico to avoid waiting another week to seal their fourth Primera Division trophy in five seasons. A Madrid win and a draw for Barcelona, meanwhile, would leave the Catalans six points clear with and virtual champions as Real would then have just two games left. However, Madrid's superior record in the head-to-head between the two teams (a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou and a 2-1 win for Real at the Santiago Bernabeu this term) would mean the capital club would finish top in the highly unlikely event of a tie at the end of the season.
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However, Mourinho did admit on Tuesday, before Madrid beat Malaga 6-2 at the Bernabeu, that his side were now focused on securing second spot. "From the moment we realised that we were not going to be able to win La Liga we said that, even though the first three spots guarantee a place in the Champions League, second place is not the same as third," the Portuguese explained.
Barca, meanwhile, must win all of their remaining four matches to equal Madrid's record of 100 points, which was set last season.
The Catalans' spectacular start to the campaign, which saw them take 55 points from a possible 57 in the opening 19 games, saw Tito's team open up an 18-point advantage over Madrid at the halfway stage, while Atletico were never really expected to challenge for the title and have since dropped off the pace.
The title race was therefore effectively over a long time ago, but midfielder Thiago says winning La Liga remains a worthy achievement: "The fans have become used to winning, but from the inside it is very complicated to win day by day. We have to value this title greatly."
Barca's Liga triumph will be the first for the club with Vilanova as head coach, while Mourinho's Madrid will look to end their season (and probably the Portuguese's time at the capital club) by claiming the Copa del Rey in the derby clash against Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu next Friday.
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