Just one month ago, it seemed as if Barcelona had the La Liga title wrapped up and also looked like the front runners to repeat as Champions League title winners again. However, a string a bad results and the resurgence of Real Madrid have set up what should be a very interesting last week in Spanish football.
Barcelona and Real Madrid will have to travel to Granada and La Coruña, respectively, and one is assured to win the title away from home. Barcelona holds a slim one point lead over Real Madrid, and Barca will hope for a Madrid loss in La Coruña so no matter what they do in Granada they will come out as champions of Spain.
On paper, it looks as if both teams should make easy work of their rivals as Deportivo La Coruña sits in 13th place in the Spanish table and Granada is even lower sitting in 16th place. However, football is a very unpredictable game and, with it being the last game of the season, stranger things have happened.
Players from both sides have voiced that La Liga is an important title, and Luis Suarez was the more vocal of the players. “If we aren’t champions, then winning the Pichichi is worth nothing,” Suarez told the media during Thursdays’ news conference.
Real manager Zinedine Zidane also spoke about his team’s chances going into the final week of the season. “We do still have faith,” Zidane said. “Why not? We have won 11 straight games and we are just one point behind. We will believe in our chances until the final second.”
Here are the scenarios for the title:
Barca can win the title with: A win against Granada, a Real Madrid loss or a draw against Granada AND a Real Madrid draw against Deportivo. A Barca loss and a Madrid draw will effectively give Barca the title on goal differential as well.
Real can win the title with: Either a Barcelona loss or draw against Granada AND a win against Deportivo.
Barcelona has more at stake in this game as they are already out of the Champions League, after being ousted by finalists Atlético Madrid, and are looking to secure some hardware in winning the league title. After looking undefeatable early in the year, this would be a great way for them to end the year and look forward to next season.
On the other hand, Real Madrid has bigger aspirations in that they can still secure the Champions League title on the 28th. As much as Real would like to win the double after looking they were not going to win anything at all, Barcelona looks like the stronger side against their opponent and will most probably secure the title against Granada. But as Zidane said, “This is the game of our lives tomorrow, as we are playing for something very important.”
However, there have been talks of “maletines”, or behind the scenes incentive payments, for Granada and La Coruña players to play a big role in deciding the title race. Many players from both squads have talked about the potential of maletines, and Ivan Kelava (goalkeeper for Granada) was quoted as saying that some teammates told him Madrid would pay them if they got a result against Barcelona. He has since stated that he was misquoted and denied any involvement with maletines.
Whether or not third-party involvement is actually influencing results, the last week of La Liga season would be an interesting one as the two giants of the league will have their fate on their hands, more so Barcelona than Madrid, and all the eyes of the world will be focused on these two particular games as we will be treated to two fantastic games.