Madrid: Barcelona have the upper hand in a final day showdown with Real Madrid for the Spanish title on Saturday as they know a victory at Granada will ensure them a 24th La Liga crown.
Madrid are a point behind and have to stretch their winning La Liga run to 12 games at Deportivo la Coruna and hope for a Barca slip up to land the title.
The battle between the two richest clubs in the world has come down to the final day thanks to Barca’s incredible slump of three consecutive league defeats in April, the first time in 13 years they had gone on such a run.
However, the world champions have bounced back in style with four straight victories by a combined 21-0 scoreline to take them to the brink of a sixth Spanish title in eight seasons.
“It is essential for us to keep a clean sheet because we know from middle to front we can make the difference,” Barca striker Luis Suarez said on Thursday.
“Mentally we have to be very strong and be aware of the fact that it is in our own hands.
“We have 93 or 94 minutes to win one match and we have already won a lot this season.”
Suarez has come up big when Barca most needed him with 11 goals in his last four games to get the Catalan giants back on track.
Moreover, the Uruguayan is now well set to become the first player other than teammate Lionel Messi and Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Pichichi award for La Liga’s top scorer in seven seasons.
Suarez’s 37 La Liga goals as part of a tally of 56 in all competitions this season is four more than Ronaldo.
However, the former Liverpool striker claimed that individual glory will mean nothing if it is not accompanied by his second La Liga title.
“I am happy to help the team, but I don’t care about the Pichichi or the golden boot if we are not champions and not able to achieve our objectives as a group.”
Crucially, Barca are facing a Granada side with nothing left to play for after they sealed their survival with a 4-1 win at Sevilla last weekend.
“If I were a Barcelona player I would say the opponent doesn’t matter. They have the team to be able to beat anyone, but we won’t roll over,” insisted Granada goalkeeper Andres Fernandez.
– Bale back? -However, build-up to the final games has as ever in the final weeks of La Liga been dominated by whether teams going for the title or battling relegation should be allowed to pay bonuses to their rivals’ opponents to win.
“I am a player that always goes out on the pitch motivated and to enjoy myself,” added Fernandez.
“For me the subject of bonuses is difficult. The league ought to take action.”
Despite a looming Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, Real are set to recall Gareth Bale and goalkeeper Keylor Navas from injury in A Coruna against a Deportivo side also with nothing to play for.
“I don’t think they will go out on the pitch relaxed,” said Madrid defender Marcelo.
“Teams always play their best against Madrid and I am sure Deportivo will want to win.”
The situation at the bottom is just as tight with Getafe, Sporting Gijon and Rayo Vallecano battling to avoid joining Levante in being relegated.
Getafe have matters in their own hands as victory at Real Betis on Sunday will secure their place in the top flight for a 13th consecutive season.
Sporting are level on points with Getafe but are in the relegation zone due to their inferior head-to-head record and need to better the Madrid side’s result when they host Villarreal.
Rayo can only be saved by bettering both Getafe and Sporting’s results at home to Levante.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Valencia v Real Sociedad (1830)
Deportivo la Coruna v Real Madrid, Granada v Barcelona (1500), Atletico Madrid v Celta Vigo, Athletic Bilbao v Sevilla (1730)
Malaga v Las Palmas (1000), Espanyol v Eibar (1700), Rayo Vallecano v Levante, Real Betis v Getafe, Sporting Gijon v Villarreal (1730)