Three has become two as the Spanish Primera Division title race goes to the final day of the season. Atlético Madrid’s surprise defeat to Levante last week has left Diego Simeone’s side out of the running and free to focus on the upcoming Champions League final. For city rivals Real Madrid, though, the chance remains to complete a La Liga and Champions League double.
Madrid trail Barcelona by a single point going into Saturday’s finale and the task for Zinedine Zidane and his side is a simple one: having lost the head-to-head battle with Barcelona this season, they must win at Deportivo La Coruna to have a chance of winning the title. It will be immaterial, however, if Barcelona also claim all three points at Granada.
Here’s how both games, which get underway at 11 a.m. EDT, shape up.
Barcelona (at Granada)
Since Barcelona blew a nine-point lead last month with three straight defeats, the Catalans have been supreme, easing to four victories by an aggregate score of 21-0. Last week at home to local foes Espanyol looked like a potential banana skin, given the same opponents had ended Barcelona’s title hopes in the same penultimate round of fixtures in 2007. This time, though, Barcelona made no mistake, winning 5-0, helped by a double from Luis Suárez to take his total in La Liga this season to 37 goals.
If this game were at any other stage of the season, then a similar outcome could simply be assumed. Barcelona have all of their first-choice lineup fit and will have the benefit of another full week off, due to their early exit from the Champions League. And since Granada returned to La Liga five years ago, Barcelona have won eight of their nine meetings, although their one defeat, two years ago helped cost them the championship.
On Saturday, Granada will have nothing to play for, having secured their survival by winning 4-1 at Sevilla last week. Still, the Dutch Eredivisie and Ajax showed last week the dangers of assuming a victory for the leaders going up against lowly opposition on the final day. Yet if Barcelona can shake off any tension then they should emerge comfortable winners.
Prediction: Granada 1-3 Barcelona
Real Madrid (at Deportivo La Coruna)
It is credit to Zidane and his Real Madrid team that they go into the final round of games still with a chance at the title, a prospect that appeared highly unlikely just six weeks ago. The team hasn’t always been fully convincing and it is still hard to draw many conclusions regarding Zidane’s philosophy and capabilities as a coach, but they keep doing enough to dig out results.
That was certainly the case last week when, given a helping hand by a goal from Karim Benzema that should never of stood, Real Madrid held on to beat Valencia 3-2 at the Bernabeu. That victory, Real Madrid’s 11th in a row in La Liga, was helped by the return of both Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, who struck the other two goals. And the side will receive further injury boosts on Saturday, with Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Keylor Navas all back in training after missing the Valencia match. It remains in doubt, though, whether Gareth Bale and Lucas Vazquez will be fit to return.
Regardless of whether that duo does take the field, Real Madrid should have too much for a Deportivo side that has won just one of their last seven matches, even if that victory came last time out against fourth-placed Sevilla. The last time Deportivo hosted one of Spain’s big sides, Barcelona inflicted an 8-0 beating, while Real Madrid triumphed 8-2 on their last visit to the Riazor.
Prediction: Deportivo La Coruna 0-2 Real Madrid