Title in sight for Real, Barça focus on Copa
Real Madrid are within touching distance of winning their first La Liga title in four years, with victory over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday good enough to secure the crown.
Real bounced back from their UEFA Champions League semi-final exit on penalties to Bayern Munich by claiming a 3-0 win over Sevilla to move them one step closer to the title. And their lead at the top of the table will become unassailable should they claim a win at the Estadio San Mames in midweek.
Barcelona thumped Rayo Vallecano 7-0 yesterday following the announcement coach Pep Guardiola will leave the club at the end of the season, but if Real beat Athletic, the gap at the top will be too big for Barça to overhaul.
Real assistant coach Aitor Karanka believes they deserve to be champions and hopes they can claim the title on Wednesday night. "It's obviously important to win the Spanish league for everything it entails and for how hard we've worked for it," Karanka told the club's official website.
"The sooner we win, the better. It would be nice to win at a great venue like San Mames against Athletic Bilbao because they are having a great season. Winning La Liga is the objective of every team. Winning such a demanding league championship, which has so many games, is more than important."
"This team deserves to win the title. We're all thinking about winning the game and we need to celebrate as soon as possible. Regardless of winning the league title or not, these players have the character and mentality of champions."
Barça were also knocked out at the Champions League semi-final stage by Chelsea last week, and with their title hopes slipping, midfielder Sergio Busquets revealed two other targets for the end of the season, including winning the Copa Del Rey. Barcelona will face Athletic Bilbao in the cup final, but first they have three league games left and begin by taking on Malaga at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.
"The most important thing is the team," Busquets told the club's official website. "We have to do everything we can so that Leo [Lionel] Messi finishes the season as top goalscorer. He's broken all the records, he's the best in the world. Also, the game we have left [cup final] is very important, I hope Pep can leave the club with the cup title."
Battle for Europa League
In the other games, relegated Racing Santander face Getafe, who are still in the hunt for a UEFA Europa League place on Tuesday. Getafe coach Luis Garcia admitted his side's hopes of European football next season are hanging by a thread following their 3-1 home defeat by Real Mallorca last Saturday.
"The chance of getting into Europe is now very difficult," Garcia said. "Now we have to win all three games to have a small chance, but the chance is minimal."
Elsewhere, Sporting Gijon will be hoping to move out of the relegation zone with a win over fellow strugglers Villarreal, who are one place above them. Sixth-placed Atletico Madrid will be looking to boost their hopes of Europa League football when they take on Real Sociedad on Wednesday, while second-bottom Real Zaragoza face a tough game against Levante in their bid to avoid relegation.
In the other games, Mallorca play Rayo Vallecano, Sevilla take on Real Betis and Valencia host Osasuna.