It seemed unlikely at various points throughout the season, but Real Madrid have weathered all the storms to come out on top during their extended title fight with Barcelona to come out on top and snatch the bragging rights from their greatest rivals.
Zinedine Zidane’s side are four points clear of Barca with only two games remaining, and will claim the title for the first time since 2016-17 if they beat Villarreal on Thursday night. They can also claim the trophy if they match Barca’s result against Osasuna, who play at the same time (11pm UAE).
With Barcelona sitting in pole position when the Spanish league shut down due to the coronavirus back in March, it looked like Los Blancos were set to be bridesmaids once again, with Lionel Messi and co in prime place to stroll to the title.
But Real came out flying at the restart of the action behind closed doors after the hiatus, and have won nine straight games to turn the tables on Barca, who have dropped points to Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid.
“Maybe the coronavirus confinement was the turning point that we needed to start reacting and fully focusing on what we needed to do when the league resumed,” Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said after the team’s 2-1 win over Granada on Monday, its ninth straight after the break.
“We prepared very well at home and after we came back,” Ramos said. “We had a goal of winning the league and here we are, fighting for it. Hopefully we can celebrate the title on Thursday.”
Two draws in the final two matches will also be enough to secure Madrid the title.
“After three months stuck at home we were given an opportunity to play again and you try to prepare as well as possible and that’s what we did,” Real boss Zidane said. “We are prepared to achieve our goals but we have two matches left and we want to try to win the title on Thursday.”
Real’s rediscovered form will also give them hope for their Champions League last-16 second-leg clash against Manchester City at the Etihad. Real trail 2-1 and will need a big performance away from home to reach the quarter-finals and the mini-tournament style event to be held in Lisbon next month.
“We prepared ourselves to try to win every match, and it’s not easy to win nine in a row in this league, which is the hardest in the world,” Zidane said. “There are no easy matches but we always think we can win them because we have quality players to do that. I’m proud of my players.”
Madrid’s last game is at relegation-threatened Leganes on Sunday, while Barcelona finish at Alaves, who are also fighting against demotion.
Eibar v Valladolid, 8.30pm
Athletic Bilbao v Leganes, 11pm
Barcelona v Osasuna, 11pm
Betis v Alaves, 11pm
Celta Vigo v Levante, 11pm
Getafe v Atletico, 11pm
Mallorca v Granada, 11pm
Madrid v Villarreal, 11pm
Sociedad v Sevilla, 11pm
Valencia v Espanyol, 11pm