The title in La Liga remains tentatively poised, with just two points separating leaders Barcelona from bitter foes Real Madrid entering the final four games of the season. But there could well be some more clarity shed on its outcome after this weekend. While Barcelona visit a Cordoba team bottom of the table, Real Madrid head to Sevilla to take on a team that have not been beaten at home in more than 13 months.
After winning the Clasico last month, Barcelona had a four-point advantage, but were faced with what was on paper the toughest fixture list of the two contenders. Yet Luis Enrique’s side have now negotiated most of their difficult matchups for the cost of just two points. Fourth-placed Valencia and local rivals Espanyol were dismissed with minimum fuss, while a 2-2 draw at Sevilla will perhaps ultimately prove to be a point gained rather than two dropped.
The run-in now gets significantly more straightforward. Indeed only a trip to Atlético Madrid next month looks like a fixture in which Barcelona might be expected to drop points. Three of their remaining five matches are at the Camp Nou, with the only other away game coming against a Cordoba side they dismissed 5-0 earlier in the season.
Fuelling Barcelona’s confidence will be a sensational first-half display against Getafe on Tuesday that set them on the way to a 6-0 win. A Real Madrid side hampered by the absence of key players were considerably less impressive the following night, despite comfortably gaining maximum points in a 3-0 win over Almeria. And the pressure is now fully on Carlo Ancelotti’s side. First up they must take three points from a Sevilla team that has got the better of them on their last two visits to the Sanchez Pijuan.
“They're a tough team at home, they've been solid throughout the season,” Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas said, reports Marca. “They're challenging for a place in the Champions League and are in the Europa League semifinals. It'll be a great game for the fans. Hopefully we can take the points, because we know the title is out of our hands. Our aim is to make things hard for Barcelona. Taking all three points from our trip to Seville keeps us in the title race.”
If Madrid can take maximum points from Sevilla then they will still face the challenge of hosting the team currently in possession of the final Champions League place, Valencia. Their campaign then rounds out with games they will expect to win at Espanyol and at home to Getafe. But it is the Sevilla fixture that looms large, and, were Madrid not to become the first team to take maximum points there this season, their title hopes could well be dashed.
Four or indeed five points would be a huge deficit to overcome in the remaining three games. Indeed, it is quite possible that should Madrid fall further behind their focus will quickly turn to the Champions League as it so clearly did in the closing weeks of last season. Casillas has even revealed that it is the challenge of becoming the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era, which continues with the first leg of their semifinal against Juventus next Tuesday, that most excites him.
“Real Madrid fans obviously have a soft spot for the Champions League," said Casillas. "Nobody has ever won back-to-back titles. I'll take the Champions League over La Liga.”