With only a point separating the top three in the La Liga, it is crunch time in Spain. The trio of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will hope they can hold on to their nerves. We look at the three fixtures this week that will have a big say on who is crowned the champion.
Momentum with Atletico, so is the tiredness
Atletico Madrid have once again shown this season that they are a match for any top side in Europe. Having beaten Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona on their way to the UEFA Champions League final, Simeone’s men have done brilliantly to chase down the Catalan giants in the league, who were threatening to run away with the title.
Having overcome Bayern in midweek, the side will be high on morale and confidence. However, how does one recover from physical exertion? If there is one team that has beautifully combined the physical and the meta-physical, it is Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. And whilst the tie against Levante will not demand the same magnitude of the combination that has downed Barcelona and Bayern, Atletico will have to guard against complacency against a side that will want to prove a point having concluded their season in much despair following confirmation of relegation last week.
Catalan derby promises to be a cracker
The Camp Nou will play host to cross-town rivals Espanyol at the weekend, who are locked in a relegation battle, sitting just 5 points above the relegation zone. A draw or a win will guarantee them a place in the league next season and at the same time put a huge dent in their rival’s title aspirations. It will be an understatement to say that Espanyol will have motivation to get something out of the game this weekend.
Barcelona were threatening to implode this season, before Enrique restored the nerves and won three league games in a row following three straight losses and an exit from the Champions League.
With both teams having so much to play for, the derby promises to be a fiery affair.
Fallen giants Valencia hoping to spoil Zidane’s debut season
Real Madrid may not have been mathematically out of contention for the title during Rafael Benitez’s reign, but the negativity surrounding the man was enough to become a huge psychological factor for them in the title race.
A 2-2 draw against Valencia earlier in January at the Mestalla led to the Spaniard’s sacking and Zidane’s appointment.
The Frenchman has been able to transform the negative atmosphere completely, primarily due to the legendary status he enjoys at the Bernabeu. The legendary midfielder knows all about the politics at Real from both playing and non-playing staff, having been there for over 15 years, now.
Real are in the Champions League final and just a point below Atletico and Barcelona, indicating that the manager has what it takes to deliver results at a place that can be best described as a crown of thorns.
Valencia will be hoping that they can spoil the party though, having had a torrid season of their own following a credible 4th place finish last season.
The Mestalla outfit were one of the biggest side in Europe during Zidane’s playing career at Real Madrid, and will hope to remind the Frenchman of their pedigree once again.