La Liga loca: Title trio all still in it after a weekend of slip-ups

The race for the championship remains wide open after Barcelona, Atletico and Real Madrid all surprisingly dropped points

Does anyone want to win it? The three title contenders in La Liga will all end the season with around 90 points, yet Atletico, Barcelona and Real Madrid managed just two between them in a crazy weekend which leaves the race wide open with just a couple of weeks remaining.

Barca conceded the title on Saturday after a disappointing draw at home to Getafe, but the Catalans may have spoken too soon. Atletico lost 2-0 at Levante on Sunday afternoon and Madrid could only salvage a point at home to Valencia later on. So it's still all to play for.

"We have to draw a line under this season," Xavi said on Saturday, while Sergio Busquets added: "We need a miracle to win La Liga." However, following the results on Sunday, a title win for the Blaugrana doesn't seem so far fetched after all. A win over Elche in their next match would mean the Catalans could reach and overtake Atletico by beating Diego Simeone's side in their final fixture at Camp Nou, a match that could yet be a straight duel for La Liga.

If Atleti defeats Malaga next weekend and Barca beats Elche, the Rojiblancos will go into the last match with 91 points and the Blaugrana will have 88, meaning a win for the Catalans would see them surpass the current league leaders on goal difference. Easier said than done, however, as Barca has failed to defeat Atleti on five separate occasions so far this season.

A win in that match may not guarantee the title, either, because Madrid can claim it with three wins (Carlo Ancelotti's men have a game in hand, away to Valladolid on Wednesday) and an Atleti slip-up. And that in itself raises another interesting question: Will the Blaugrana hand a victory to Atleti to stop Real from winning La Liga if they can't win it themselves?

It's all hypothetical at this stage and Madrid also faces a tough trip to Celta Vigo, coached by the man tipped to take over at Camp Nou next season, Luis Enrique. Ancelotti's side then ends the season with a home match against Espanyol while Barca hosts Atleti in another fixture featuring sides from Spain's two biggest cities.

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Atleti can finish with 94 points with two wins and will be champion if it reaches that figure. Barca can only total 91, although that would include a win over Simeone's side and may be enough, depending on Madrid, which can accumulate 92 with three victories in its remaining games.

"Losing today is the best thing that could have happened to us," Simeone said after his side's Levante loss. And he added: "It makes things a bit more fun..."

It certainly does, although it's an opportunity lost for Atleti, which could have wrapped up the title next weekend if it had won in Valencia. However, the Argentine was shrewdly sending a message of support and positivity to his players, fully aware that this remains in their hands - even after the loss on Sunday.

Atletico fought hard but looked tired after its mid-week exertions at Chelsea in the Champions League and came up against an inspired goalkeeper in Keylor Navas. Simeone's men never recovered from the freak Filipe Luis own goal which gave Levante the lead.

Madrid, meanwhile, missed a number of chances against Valencia and was behind to a Mathieu header late in the first half. Sergio Ramos leveled just short of the hour with a header of his own from a Cristiano Ronaldo assist, but the lead lasted only a few minutes as Dani Parejo restored the visitors' advantage. And as time ticked away, the home side became increasingly desperate, with Ronaldo in particular enduring a frustrating evening.

But the Portuguese resuced Real in added time with an extraordinary back-heeled strike from an Angel Di Maria cross and Madrid took something from a game that had looked lost. It was only a point, but it may yet be a crucial one as La Liga draws towards an unpredictable finale.

    P W D L F A Pts
Atletico Madrid 36 28 4 4 75 24 88
Barcelona 36 27 4 5 99 32 85
Real Madrid 35 26 5 4 100 34 83

"I'm not happy," Ancelotti said afterwards. "But we will fight on with the same enthusiasm. Cristiano's goal was very important and without it, we would have lost La Liga."

Perhaps, although there may yet be further twists in this title race. Madrid travels to Valladolid next on Wednesday in its rescheduled match. "It's not a disadvantage," the Italian coach added. "We'll do better than we did today."

A win in Valladolid will see Madrid move above Barca with two games left, while any other result will surely end its title hopes. But after a freak weekend in La Liga, the race remains very much alive. Further slip-ups for any of these teams, however, will likely spell the end of their chances. The pressure is on.

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