MADRID: Despite notching a record 96 points, Barcelona must defeat Valladolid at home today to retain their La Liga title and leave rivals Real Madrid emptyhanded as an epic title race reaches its conclusion.
Going into the final day of the season, Real are just a point behind and preying Barca slip-up against a troubled Valladolid. Madrid are at Malaga, another team fighting for survival, knowing they need to win and hope Valladolid take points from the champions. “It is the most demanding league I can remember,” said Barcelona captain Carles Puyol.
“The table speaks for itself, finishing with 99 points is an incredible amount.” Barcelona have the comfort of knowing their destiny is in their own hands. However, anything but a win could see them lose the title on the final day of the season. Real must win to stand any chance of becoming champions as Barcelona would win the title due to their superior head-tohead record if the sides finished level on points.
Iniesta hopeful Guardiola must do without suspended playmaker Xavi and full back Maxwell but can call on Lionel Messi who is set to land the Pichichi crown for the league’s top-scorer with his 32 goals, five better than Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain. Additionally, midfielder Andres Iniesta is hoping to be fit for the final game on Sunday to help his side retain the La Liga title. Meanwhile Guti, 33, is poised to play his final game at Malaga ending his 15-year association with Real before an expected summer move to Galatasary.
Survival at stake There is everything to play for at the bottom with no team relegated as five sides battle to stay in the top flight. Malaga are third from bottom but level on points with Racing Santander and Valladolid above them while bottom side Xerez are three points from safety and need to win at Osasuna and hope the other four troubled teams lose. Racing Santander, Malaga, Valladolid and Tenerife are all on 36 points. Malaga and Valladolid have the toughest tasks against Real Madrid and Barcelona giving Racing and Tenerife more hope of staying up as they play against teams with nothing to play for.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.