Football

Barcelona and Real Madrid go to the wire for La Liga crown

Zinedine Zidane has led Real Madrid to the Uefa Champions League final since taking over from Rafael Benitez.
Zinedine Zidane has led Real Madrid to the Uefa Champions League final since taking over from Rafael Benitez. Reuters/Fabian Bimmer
3 min

Back when Sir Alex Ferguson was laird of the manor at Manchester United, he coined the phrase "squeaky bum time" to describe the final weeks of the season when championships were lost or won through sheer brilliance, luck or misfortune. 

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Two seasons ago, with a Luis Suarez inspired Liverpool closing in on their first English title since 1990, Steven Gerrard slipped and miscontrolled a pass allowing Chelsea's Demba Ba to run in and score his side's first goal in a 2-0 victory at Anfield.

The defeat in April 2014 halted Liverpool’s title charge and, still seemingly scrambled by that setback, a few weeks later Liverpool squandered a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace to draw 3-3.

Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City clinched the title by two points. A truly bum deal for Gerrard who confessed in an interview just after leaving Liverpool in 2015, that he still had nightmares about the slip.

On Saturday, Gerrard's former team mate, Suarez, will be in the colours of Barcelona as the Catalans seek to retain their La Liga crown. They play at 16th placed Granada knowing that victory will ensure them the title for the 24th time in their history.

If Barcelona fail to take maximum points, Real Madrid will claim their 33rd championship provided they win at Deportivo La Corunya.

That there's intrigue on the last day of the season is due to a Barcelona meltdown in April. After 30 games, Barcelona were nine points ahead of Atletico Madrid and 10 points clear of Real Madrid.

But three defeats in April against Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Valencia cut that advantage. With their cushion gone, Barcelona have won their games since then. Real Madrid - under the guidance of Zinedine Zidane - have kept up the chase following their 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou on 2 April and have also advanced to the final of the Uefa Champions League.

Zidane's players stand on the cusp of an unlikely double - pipping Barca to the title at the death and beating Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final on 28 May in Milan.

Dreams don't come any bigger than that for the Real faithful. But there is also a nightmare scenario looming. On Saturday afternoon at the Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, Barcelona can start the woe for the Real fans.

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