La Liga is setting up a title race for the ages as the two Madrid clubs remain in the hunt for the trophy going into the final Gameweek of the season on Saturday. For Atletico, the equation is simple-win the game against Real Valladolid and become champions of Spain. For Real Madrid however, they need to win their game against Villareal and hope that Atletico either draws or loses their respective game against Valladolid.
Atletico sits on top of the league with 83 points while their neighbours are just two points behind them with 81. A draw for Atletico and a win for Real Madrid would mean both teams finish the league with 84 points. In that case, the head to head result would come into effect, meaning that Real Madrid would win the league as they had won one and drew the other game against Atletico Madrid.
If the title race were a movie, Luis Suarez would be the protagonist in it. Deemed surplus to requirements at Barcelona, Suarez was sold by the Barcelona board to Atletico Madrid for a mere 6.0 million Euros. And what an investment it has turned out to be for Atletico. The Uruguayan’s 20 goals in the league this season has propelled the club to the top of the league and helped Diego Simeone’s side dream about their first league title since 2014.
It was only fitting that Luis Suarez’s late goal against Osasuna last Gameweek created enough gap on the points table between Atletico and Barcelona that ended Barcelona’s title hope mathematically.
For a large part of the season, Atletico Madrid seemed like running away with the league. They led the table with six points gap between them and second place while having two games in hand. By the end of January, Atletico had lost only once in the league.
But then the fuel ran out, or the nerves set in, and the lead started to shrink. Levante took four points off Simeone’s team within a few days. There were losses at Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao, and draws at Real Betis and Getafe.
Their slump in form, combined with the excellent performances shown by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla in the second half of the season which had resulted in a potential four-horse race going into the final few weeks of the season.
However, all four clubs have had difficulties in maintaining consistency during this period. Everyone was dropping points. Atletico Madrid dropping points gave both Real Madrid and Barcelona the chance, on different occasions, to go on top of the table. Both have had moments when they knew that if they won all their remaining games, they would win the championship. However, both of the Spanish giants managed to squander their respective chances.
Barcelona had their fate in their own hands. Atletico Madrid’s loss to Athletic Bilbao in Gameweek 33 meant that Barcelona could win the league if they could win their remaining fixtures. That was easier said than done. Messi and co lost to Granada at home that very week, thereby letting go of a golden chance to go on top of the league.
Gameweek 35 offered a mouthwatering week of Spanish football, where the top four teams in the league were all in action against one of their three competitors. Atletico took on Barcelona whereas Real Madrid went up against Sevilla in a situation that could have seen any one of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid go on top of the table based on results.
A goal-less draw between Barcelona and Atletico handed Real Madrid the opportunity to become league leaders if they could secure the win against Sevilla. Zidane’s men could only manage a hard-fought draw after a late strike from Toni Kroos gave them a point.
The league was again back in Atletico’s hands. The drama continued even in Gameweek 37 where Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona were playing at the same time. As the clock ran across the 75 minute mark, Real Madrid were winning against Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona were drawing against Celta Vigo and Atletico were trailing against Osasuna by a goal. As the results stood, Real Madrid were on top of the table at that exact moment.
However, late strikes from Lodi and Suarez ensured that Atletico Madrid took all three points from the game and reclaim their spot at the top of the table. Barcelona’s eventual loss to Celta Vigo meant that they were out of the title race. By the end of Gameweek 37, and the hunt for the La Liga trophy came down to the two Madrid clubs.
It sets up the final Gameweek beautifully. Atletico Madrid needs to win their game against Valladolid to ensure the league title. On the other hand, Valladolid needs to win to hope to avoid relegation. Real Madrid will take on a Villareal side who will look to win to guarantee a spot in the Europa League next season. Zidane’s men will need to win their own game and hope their rivals drop points to clinch the title
The writer is an undergrad student studying at Dhaka University. [email protected]