Zi­dane’s side on verge of long-awaited ti­tle

New Straits Times - - Sport -

REAL Madrid are poised to win a first La Liga ti­tle in five years to­day as Zine­dine Zi­dane’s men hold a three-point lead over Barcelona head­ing into the fi­nal day of the sea­son.

Barca need to beat Eibar at home to have any chance of a third straight ti­tle in out­go­ing coach Luis Enrique’s farewell to the Nou Camp.

Madrid have looked in omi­nous form as they’ve edged to­wards the ti­tle by thrash­ing Sevilla and Celta Vigo 4-1 in the past week with Cristiano Ron­aldo scor­ing twice in both games.

“We have to con­tinue what we are do­ing be­cause the league isn’t fin­ished yet,” warned Zi­dane af­ter Celta were swept aside on Wed­nes­day.

How­ever, hav­ing lost just three league games all sea­son it would be a huge shock if 11th-placed Malaga de­nied Madrid at the fi­nal hur­dle.

Malaga, though, are one of La Liga’s form sides hav­ing picked up 13 points from their last five games.

The An­dalu­sians also did Real a huge favour by beat­ing Barcelona 2-0 last month.

And Malaga’s at­ti­tude to­wards the game will be un­der the spot­light af­ter some con­tro­ver­sial com­ments from their coach Michel.

The former Madrid favourite ad­mit­ted he wanted the ti­tle de­cided be­fore his old side vis­ited as he would have pre­ferred to give them a “guard of hon­our” than deal Madrid’s chances “a blow.”

Those state­ments sparked a war of words be­tween Malaga and Barcelona with Barca lodg­ing a com­plaint with the Span­ish sport­ing authorities af­ter Malaga’s Qatari owner Ab­dul­lah AlThani de­scribed them on Twit­ter as “the scum of Cat­alo­nia.”

Barca should at least have Malaga’s best player and top scorer this sea­son on their side.

San­dro Ramirez made 32 ap­pear­ances for Barca be­fore mov­ing to Malaga where he has scored 16 goals in his de­but sea­son.

And San­dro could be bid­ding his farewell to La Ros­aleda with a host of lead­ing Span­ish and English clubs in­ter­ested in his sig­na­ture for next sea­son.

Zi­dane is ex­pected to un­usu­ally name an un­changed side from the team that started in Vigo in mid­week with a two-week break to come be­fore Madrid face Ju­ven­tus in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal.

Ron­aldo will be look­ing to build on his stun­ning record of 13 goals in his last eight games, but Gareth Bale re­mains side­lined.

Barca should at least force Real to get the point they need and give Enrique a vic­to­ri­ous farewell when an Eibar side that have run out of steam af­ter a great sea­son visit the Nou Camp.

Atletico Madrid will play their fi­nal com­pet­i­tive game at the Vi­cente Calderon be­fore mov­ing to the 67,000 Wanda Metropoli­tano next sea­son with Ath­letic Bil­bao the vis­i­tors to­day.

That match will have ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the only is­sue yet to be re­solved as Vil­lar­real, Ath­letic and Real So­ciedad bat­tle for two Europa League places.

Vil­lar­real, who have a one point ad­van­tage over the two Basque clubs, visit Va­len­cia, whilst So­ciedad travel to Celta.

How­ever, all three will be guar­an­teed a place in Europe next sea­son if Barca beat Alaves in the King’s Cup fi­nal next week­end.

TO­DAY: Atletico v Bil­bao, Va­len­cia v Vil­lar­real, Celta Vigo v So­ciedad, Barcelona v Eibar, Malaga v Real. AFP

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