The Spanish league cup will be lying by the field at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Thursday, with Real Madrid just a victory away from winning it in three years for the first time.
Madrid will have the first opportunity to win the championship when it hosts Villarreal at the Di Stefano after a long season under pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It reaches the second to last round with a four-point advantage over Barcelona, which concurrently plays Osasuna at Camp Nou.
Madrid needs two points to win its 34th League title from its last two matches-and first since 2017. When Barcelona fails to beat Osasuna it can also lift the cup with a loss.
It would be Madrid’s first league title since Cristiano Ronaldo left to join Juventus two seasons ago, and the first since coach Zinedine Zidane returned from a short break.
Barcelona won the last two league titles and was at the top this season when the coronavirus pandemic struck, but Madrid has been perfect since the break, winning nine straight.
”When we returned from the confinement after being stuck at home for almost three months, I could see that the players wanted to achieve something big,” Zidane said Wednesday.
”I could see it during the training sessions, I could see it in how they were practicing.”
Three of its last four matches had been lost to Madrid before March’s league interrupted.
Barcelona seemed to be in control but after the break, it suffered an up-and – down race and lost three matches on top. Under strain, Coach Quique Setien knows his club is faced with a hard job to conquer Madrid’s advantage, due to team results and lack of success.
”It’s not over yet, anything can happen,” said Setien, who took over from Ernesto Valverde in January.
”But it will be very difficult for us. You need a loss from a team that has won everything. We will keep fighting until the end.”
Barcelona has won eight of the last 11 league titles, with Madrid lifting the trophy in 2017 and 2012.
Madrid will face a Villarreal team that is sitting fifth in the standings and fighting for a Europa League berth.
It had one of the best runs following the coronavirus break, winning six of its nine matches.
”It will be one of our most difficult matches,” Zidane said. ”It’s a very tough rival, a very good team.”