• Breaking News

    Saturday, May 14, 2016

    Barcelona & Real Madrid gear up for dramatic final day

    The time has come. Barcelona and Real Madrid are all set for a dramatic day as La Liga is decided on Saturday. After 37 rounds of action in the Primera Division, only one point separates the two teams - and the title will be won after what promises to be a tense finale.

    Barcelona lead La Liga with 88 points, one more than Madrid, going into the 38th and final round of matches. So a victory for Luis Enrique's side in Granada and the Blaugrana will be champions again - for the sixth time in eight seasons. If they lose or draw, however, Los Blancos can win it by beating Deportivo La Coruna at Riazor.

    "We are really excited about winning this league and about playing a great game," Luis Enrique said on Friday ahead of the trip to Granada. "It's a difficult match because of the tension, even though it depends on us. We will approach it like we did the previous 37."

    Barca could still win a domestic double this term as they face Sevilla in the final of the Copa del Rey next Sunday at the Vicente Calderon, but Luis Enrique said: "For me there's only one final: the one against Granada. After that we will talk about the Copa."

    With the title at stake, there has been all the usual talk in Spain about possible incentive payments by the big teams as a means of motivating their rivals on the final day of the season - even if none of that has been proved.

    "I don't have to talk about that topic," Luis Enrique said. And asked about how Granada and Deportivo (both safe from relegation and with nothing but pride to play for) would act, he responded: "I would put my hand in the fire for [the honesty of] all the professionals. If is there is proof on the contrary, I will get burnt and remove my hand."

    Barca lost 1-0 at Granada in April 2014 in a defeat that badly hit their hopes of winning La Liga that season. However, that side started with Jose Pinto in goal, Martin Montoya at right-back, Sergio Busquets in central defence and Alex Song in midfield, while Lionel Messi had his problems through injuries and Neymar was struggling to adapt.

    Luis Enrique was not at the club then, but arrived in the summer after Barca missed out on the Primera Division to Atletico, bringing in Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Claudio Bravo, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jermey Mathieu among others to build a significantly stronger side that went on the win the treble in 2014-15 and is now on the verge of retaining La Liga this term.

    In Madrid on Friday, Zidane was asked about primas (incentive payments) in four separate questions after Madrid's training session at Valdebebas, but like Luis Enrique did not want to talk about the topic or say anything at all that could be deemed controversial.

    "I don’t know what you are talking about," he said. "This is the last press conference before a Liga game, but we are focused only on what we have to do at Riazor." And he later added: "I only comment on things that we will do. About real things. About winning points, going about our work. I say what I think. For me the most important thing is to think about tomorrow’s game.
    "If Granada will give their all? I won’t go into that. We have a final and we have to things as well as possible to win the three points. There’s nothing else in our heads. We will give our maximum to try and win. I won’t talk about anything else. I could say Granada will do this or that, but I just want to talk about me, about us."
    As well as the talk about incentive payments, there is the conspiracy that Granada will let Barcelona win as that suits Sevilla, because a title for the Catalans would see Unai Emery's side assured of a place in the Spanish Supercopa. And Granada, of course, thrashed Sevilla 4-1 at the Sanchez Pizjuan last weekend to secure survival.

    "If Barcelona win La Liga that benefits us because we would secure [a place in] the Spanish Supercopa," Emery said on Friday ahead of his team's trip to Athletic Bilbao, where Sevilla will play with an under-strength side as they prepare for the finals of the Europa League and the Copa del Rey over the next eight days.

    But Granada boss Jose Gonzalez said: "It annoys me that the professionalism of any player is put into doubt. That annoys me and it hurts me. What we have to do is to try and make sure Barcelona are not at their best. We will have to defend really well and use our weapons in the best way we can."
    Over at Deportivo, meanwhile, problems in the dressing room have seen the Galician side plummet in 2016 after a strong start to the season, and the club only escaped relegation last weekend by beating Villarreal 2-0 at El Madrigal.

    Coach Victor Sanchez read out a long statement in his press conference on Friday to discuss the problems with Alberto Lopo and Luisinho this season, hitting out at "acidic, negative and destructive" influences at the club. 
    Depor lost 8-0 at home to Barcelona recently and Sanchez said of the meeting with Madrid: "We know it will be difficult and we know what they are playing for. If the Barcelona score isn't favourable [for Real], maybe they will be distracted and we can achieve something important." And asked about his spell as a Madrid player, he added: "I belong to Deportivo La Coruna. I want the best for my team and nothing more."

    The most likely outcome, of course, is that both Barca and Madrid will win on Saturday, but just over two months ago the Catalans led Real by 10 points and such a climax seemed unthinkable.

    Barca remain favourites as Los Blancos (who have closed the gap by winning their last 11 games) attempt to win the title from second place on the last day for the first time in their history and this finale may yet produce another twist in the tale.

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