Primera Division title race goes down to the wire
The race for the La Liga title will go down to the final weekend after Real Madrid and Barcelona both secured victories on Saturday night.
Only one point separates the Catalans from Florentino Perez’s GalÃƒÂ¡cticos as the final round of fixtures looms.
Pep Guardiola’s Barca played out a nervy end to their encounter at Sevilla, allowing their ten-man counterparts back into the game after holding a comfortable 3-0 lead.
The reigning champions took the lead after five minutes through Lionel Messi and Bojan doubled the visitors’ advantage 25 minutes later. The three points looked all but secure when Pedro scored on 62 minutes to make it 3-0, but a cool finish from Frederic Kanoute and slack defending which allowed Luis Fabiano to capitalise after 71 made for a nervous end to the match for a visibly distressed Guardiola.
Despite going into the final match with their fate in their own hands, Guardiola is taking nothing for granted ahead of Valladolid’s visit to the Camp Nou next weekend.
“We still have to sweat and toil,” the Barca coach said. “We are lucky enough to depend on ourselves, but we have to win next week’s game and Valladolid are fighting for survival and knowing Javier Clemente, because I had the fortune to be coached by him in the national side, I expect a very difficult match.”
Real Madrid meanwhile sealed an emphatic 5-1 victory against Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu with goals from Ronaldo, HiguaÃƒÂn, Benzema, Ramos and Marcelo.
Los Blancos took the lead in the first half from the penalty spot after Fernando Amorebieta was adjudged to have handled in the area. It was a decision which ultimately might have sealed Athletic’s fate as referee Cesar FernÃƒÂ¡ndez showed Amorebieta a straight red card for the incident.
Madrid were pegged back to 1-1 before the break, but after HiguaÃƒÂn secured the breakthrough on 71 minutes, the visitors were helpless to prevent a barrage of GalÃƒÂ¡cticos attacks.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini praised his team’s near perfect home record this season.
“We closed out a great season at the Bernabeu,” he said. “We won 18 of 19 matches and scored 60 goals -that’s more than three per match. We have now scored more than 100 goals overall. The numbers are there. We are the top scoring team.”
“You never know what can happen. We need to maintain this spirit and fight until the end. Hope is the last thing we can lose.”
Next Sunday’s final round of fixtures:
Almeria v Sevilla
Athletic Bilbao v Deportivo La Coruna
Atletico Madrid v Getafe
Barcelona v Valladolid
Malaga v Real Madrid
Mallorca v Espanyol
Osasuna v Xerez
Racing Santander v Sporting Gijon
Real Zaragoza v Villarreal
Valencia v Tenerife