Real Madrid and Barcelona went into Sunday night neck and neck and they remain so on Monday morning, after drawing 4-1 between themselves. Both sides went 2-0 up, giving the impression that it would be an easy evening, both were pegged back to 2-1, which sparked some interest but both eventually ran out more or less comfortable 4-1 winners. And so they remain neck and neck, with Barcelona holding the slight advantage of head to head supremacy and Real the more substantial matter of a game in hand. Zinedine Zidane’s side have two games left, both away at Celta and Málaga. A draw and a victory will guarantee the title whatever the result when Barcelona host Eibar on Sunday. Madrid are in the driving seat, but the title race will go down to the final day.
Zidane fielded a mixture of his regular starters and back-ups and the truth is it didn’t work. Madrid were lucky to go in at half time 2-0 up. Nacho’s goal came courtesy of Sevilla switching off (and Nacho having a light bulb moment) while Stevan Jovetic hit the post and the bar as well as testing Keylor Navas’s recovered form. But in the second half Zidane brought on Casemiro, who was missed, as well as Lucas Vázquez and Luka Modric and Madrid went from being under the cosh to running up a high score. Cristiano Ronaldo, in his now definitive role as a central striker, bagged two in a performance that proved he is ever-more designed to play in that position.
In Las Palmas Neymar scored three to bring his scoring drought to an end, which was all that had been lacking from his game recently. But Barcelona left Gran Canaria only partially satisfied because Madrid had avoided another potential slip-up. Unreserved joy was left to Atlétio, guaranteed a third-place finish, and Leganés and Depor, guaranteed another season in Primera after credible draws in San Mamés and La Cerámica. And the hurt was reserved for Sporting, who beat Eibar but not the drop as other results condemned them to Segunda. But Sporting go with their heads held high. In the final week of action the title will be decided, as will the battle for the Europa League places between Villarreal, Athletic and Real Sociedad, all of whom were surprised at home at the weekend. Nothing comes easily at this stage of the season.