Madrid: The Spanish league trophy will be sitting by the field at the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium here Thursday. The hosts Real Madrid will only be a win away from lifting it for the first time in three years. Real Madrid will have their first chance to clinch the title when they host Villarreal at the Di Stéfano. This has been a long season for them because the La Liga was in jeopardy because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Permutations and combinations
Real Madrid enter the second-to-last round with a four-point lead over Barcelona. The latter face Osasuna at the Camp Nou at the same time. Real Madrid need two points from their last two matches to secure its 34th league title — and first since 2017. They can also lift the trophy with a loss if Barcelona fails to defeat Osasuna.
It would be Real Madrid’s first league title since Cristiano Ronaldo left to join Juventus two seasons ago. It will also be the first since coach Zinedine Zidane returned from a short break.
Barcelona won the last two league titles and was at the top this season when the coronavirus pandemic struck. However, Madrid has been perfect since the break, winning nine straight games.
“We returned from the confinement after being stuck at home for almost three months. Then I could see that the players wanted to achieve something big,” Zidane said Wednesday. “I could see it during the training sessions. I could see it in how they were practicing,” the manager added.
Madrid had lost three of its last four matches before the league was interrupted in March. Barcelona seemed in control then but endured an up-and-down run after the break. They have drawn three matches since return and have lost their advantage at the top.
Coach under pressure
Coach Quique Setién has been under pressure because of the team’s results and lacklustre performances. He knows his club faces a tough task trying to overcome Real Madrid’s advantage.
“It’s not over yet, anything can happen,” said Setién, who took over from Ernesto Valverde in January. “But it will be very difficult for us. You need a loss from a team that has won everything. We will keep fighting until the end,” he added.
Barcelona have won eight of the last 11 league titles, with Madrid lifting the trophy in 2017 and 2012.
Madrid will face a Villarreal team that is sitting fifth in the standings and fighting for a Europa League berth. Villarreal had one of the best runs following the coronavirus break, winning six of their nine matches.
“It will be one of our most difficult matches,” Zidane said. They are a very tough rival, a very good team.”
Barcelona’s opponent, Osasuna, is in 11th place. So the Catalan giants are expected to have an easy game.