La Liga: Barcelona looking to seal league title by defeating Atletico Madrid
Madrid, May 15 (IANS) With the threat of the players' strike lifted by the decision of Spain's National Court on Thursday, the way is now clear for the penultimate round of games in the La Liga, all of which will be played on Sunday evening.
FC Barcelona will be crowned as champions if they are able to defeat third placed Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon Stadium or Real Madrid lose on their trip to Barcelona to face Espanyol, reports Xinhua.
Likewise, if both sides draw their respective matches that would be enough to start the celebrations in Barcelona, who will travel to the Calderon with their strongest possible side in order to try and seal the title ahead of next weekend's final matches.
It has been a week of contrasting fortunes for Barcelona and Real with the Catalans qualifying for the Champions League final on Tuesday. Real crashed out of the semi-finals after a 1-1 draw at home against Juventus, just five days after a 2-2 draw against Sevilla virtually ended their La Liga title hopes.
It remains to be seen how Real react to those huge setbacks which have put a question mark on the future of coach Carlo Ancelotti, who will watch Sunday's game from the stands after being suspended for two matches. Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos has said goodbye to the season after picking up a calf injury.
All of the weekend matches share the same 7pm kick off time so that no teams gain unfair advantages over the other at an end to the season which sees many other issues still at stake.
Atletico are obliged to give their all against Barcelona as they are not assured of third place and direct qualification for next season's Champions League. A defeat for Atletico coupled with a win for Valencia against Celta Vigo would leave that question in the balance until the final game of the season.
Likewise, fifth-placed Sevilla also have a chance of overtaking Valencia should they defeat struggling Almeria and Valencia lose against Celta. Malaga, Athletic Club Bilbao, Espanyol and Celta all have options of finishing seventh and assuring a place in Europe for next season.
That means Espanyol and Celta have the options of taking their foot off the gas while Athletic travel to face an Elche side which has avoided relegation for the second successive season.
The battle to avoid the drop is the final issue of the week with SD Eibar visiting Getafe, Granada travelling to play Real Sociedad and Deportivo la Coruna entertaining Levante, who themselves need a win to be assured of retaining their top-flight status.
It is an evening where fans will watch matches with a radio next to their ears: the sort of day that perhaps supporters have missed with the multiple kick off times, the sort of day where a season can be made or destroyed for many in just 90 minutes.