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Barcelona and Madrid title showdown already heating up

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Barcelona and Madrid title showdown already heating up

As if it needed any more spice, the battle between Spain’s two top for the La Liga crown is causing controversy amid talk of possible incentive payments and dodgy officiating.

So it all comes down to this. With just one round remaining in La Liga, a single point separates Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table. Everything will be decided on a spectacular Saturday evening – and the build-up in Spain is already intense.

All of this seemed so unlikely just a few weeks back. Ahead of the Clasico clash at Camp Nou last month, Barca had gone unbeaten in 39 matches in all competitions and led La Liga by nine points from Atletico and 10 from Real Madrid. Spain’s top flight is boring, many moaned. Not now.

Three consecutive Barca defeats let both Atletico and Madrid back in the race with a few rounds left, and although Diego Simeone’s side saw their hopes ended with a suprise defeat at relegated Levante on Sunday, Madrid could still catch the champions in what promises to be a thrilling climax this weekend.

Barca are a point clear as they travel to Granada, with Madrid in action away to Deportivo La Coruna at the same time. Atletico, in third, are at home to Celta Vigo, but can come second at best due to their inferior head-to-head record against Luis Enrique’s side this term.

Madrid beat Valencia 3-2 on Sunday, but were hanging on at the end after Andre Gomes’ goal nine minutes from time and an equaliser by the visitors would have seen Barca crowned champions. But Real survived to secure an 11th straight victory in La Liga and ensure a tense final day on Saturday.

“We have to continue winning points and hope Granada do well in their game,” Zidane said afterwards. “We’ll do what we can to win our game. Now we are second, there’s one game left and anything could happen – you never know in football. We have to be aware of that fight until the final whistle.”

Madrid had hoped that Espanyol could help them out in the Catalan derby on Sunday, but Barca thrashed their local rivals 5-0 at Camp Nou and there was to be no repeat of what happened in 2006-07, when Raul Tamudo’s double frustrated the Blaugrana and allowed Los Blancos to move top and ultimately claim the title.

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