La Liga is heading to a thrilling conclusion next month as Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla all have a realistic chance to win the Spanish league title. Only three points separate the four teams, with Barcelona having a game in hand and superior goal difference, and it looks increasingly likely that the title may not be decided until the final matchday on Saturday, 23 May.
At this late stage in the season, and with only a cigarette paper to slide between the title contenders, every match counts and Barcelona, currently sharing second place on 71 points with Real Madrid, have the opportunity to leapfrog above leaders Atletico Madrid by beating Granada tomorrow. With Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid failing to win at the weekend, the recent 2-1 win by the Catalans against Villareal could prove pivotal in the title race. Barcelona are current favourites to win the title with betting odds of 8/15 from bookmaker William Hill.
Manager Ronald Koeman, appointed last August to replace Quique Setien, saw his team take home the Copa del Rey earlier this month following a 4-0 victory against Atletico Bilbao. Knocked out of the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain, winning La Liga would be the apogee of the season. With six matches remaining, and 18 points at stake, Barcelona will be keen to defeat Granada to top the league table ahead of facing Atletico Madrid on 8 May.
Current La Liga champions, Real Madrid were held to a disappointing goalless draw at home to Real Betis last weekend. Zinedine Zidane will be pleased that former Chelsea star, Eden Hazard, has recovered from his most recent injury and that the Belgian striker will be able to contribute to the remaining season, but the entire team will need to pull together to win their remaining matches in La Liga. Los Blancos are still in contention in the Champions League, having played the first leg of the semi-final against Chelsea earlier this week, a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. With two draws in the last five matches played in La Liga, Real Madrid will need to step it up a notch or two in face of stiff competition and the bookies are not confident that Los Blancos can do that, with odds of 9/1 from BetVictor that Real Madrid will win La Liga.
Atletico Madrid tops the league table just now with 73 points, just two points ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the recent defeat to Athletic Bilbao has been a setback and the team has lost two of their past five matches. Accordingly, Los Rojiblancos are second-favourites now to win La Liga, despite their current slim lead, with odds of 10/3 from bookie BetVictor. But if Atletico win their remaining five matches – against Elche, Barcelona, Real Sociedad Osasuna and Valladolid – they will win La Liga with no ifs, buts or maybes. Leading La Liga and with five matches to go, can manager Diego Simeone push his Atletico Madrid players – including global star Luis Suarez – to overcome their wavering form and beat the odds? The match against Barcelona next month will present the most significant challenge as Los Rojiblancos have not beaten Barcelona at Camp Nou since 2006; even a draw at this stage, however, may be enough to upset the odds.
Sevilla’s chances of winning La Liga hang in the balance. With 70 points to date, Julen Lopetegui’s team have five matches remaining against Atletic Bilbao, Real Madrid, Valencia, and Villareal and Alaves. With Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid ahead of them, albeit by the smallest of margins, Sevilla must rely on winning these tough fixtures and hoping that the other three teams fall at the last hurdle. For almost two decades now, the trio have split up the La Liga titles between them and Sevilla would dearly love to break their stranglehold on the competition but it’s a big ask and the bookies reckon that it’s too big an ask, with UNIBET offering odds of 33/1. But remember that Sevilla is the only team of the four to have won all five of their most recent matches, and sometimes the underdogs do win!
It is exceptional for four teams to be so close in the final stages of La Liga and, in the event that two teams end the season on the same points, the decision on who has won La Liga will depend upon which team has a better score aggregate against the other. If the score aggregates are identical, then the team with the better goal difference across the season will lift the trophy.