Real Madrid and Barcelona take Liga title race to the wire

Barcelona's 1-0 victory at Valladolid kept the champions a point behind Real Madrid, who have the chance to go four clear again against Granada on Monday.

Messi, en el partido ante el Madrid.
Diario AS Javier Gandul

It might not have been completely convincing but Barcelona’s narrow victory over Valladolid on Saturday put the ball back into Real Madrid’s court with Zinedine Zidane’s side travelling to Granada on Monday where they will play for the chance to go four points clear of Quique Setién’s reigning champions with just two rounds of fixtures left to play.

Barcelona moved to 79 points after Leo Messi and Arturo Vidal combined to see off Valladolid with Real Madrid currently on 80. Had Barça been held in the José Zorrilla, Zidane’s side could have been crowned champions in Granada with a victory due to their superior head-to-head Clásico record this season.

As it stands, Madrid cannot afford any kind of slip-up in the Nuevo Los Cármenes, where Granada have not beaten Monday’s visitors since 2013. In their nine Liga meetings since then, Real Madrid have been victorious on every occasion. Diego Martínez’s side have been beaten just twice since the restart, but both of those matches were at home. In their last three, Granada have scored at least twice in victories over Real Sociedad and Alavés and a 2-2 draw with Valencia.

Real Madrid and Barcelona's run-ins

Week Real Madrid Barcelona
36 Granada Valladolid (0-1)
37 Villarreal Osasuna
38 Leganés Alavés

Home games in bold. 

A win in Los Cármenes will give Zidane some wiggle room when Madrid host fifth-placed Villarreal in the penultimate game with Leganés up last for the Bernabéu outfit.

Barcelona relying on favours from lesser Liga lights

Quique Setién during match against Real Valladolid.

Barcelona have little choice but to win their last two games and hope Granada live up to their nickname of the “Giant Killers.” Setién’s side face Osasuna at Camp Nou, where the Navarrese side have not tasted victory since a 2009 smash and grab. However, they did hold Barça to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture earlier this season and have won four of their last six.

If the title race goes down to the final day, Barça’s final game may prove a potential banana skin: Alavés are 17th and three points clear of the relegation zone but if they require a result to ensure their own survival Asier Garitano’s side can kick up a fuss at the Mendizorrotza but are currently on a run of six straight defeats.