With just six points separating the top four and the quartet of title contenders playing each other this weekend, it’s rarely been this exciting at the top of La Liga for the run-in.
With just four matches to go, the destination of the top domestic prize in Spain remains unknown as Atletico, Barca, Real Madrid or even Sevilla could all yet be crowned champions.
Atleti Remain Team to Catch
Atletico have led the way for much of the campaign and Diego Simeone’s sometimes dogged but usually winning side still have the slight advantage as they lead Real and Barca by two points – with Real in second due to their better head-to-head Clasico record – while Sevilla are back in fourth.
Atletico are in control of their own destiny and this weekend will surely be pivotal in what’s been a thrilling fight at the top.
Avoid defeat at the Nou Camp on Saturday and they will edge closer to the finish line but a defeat would hand the initiative to the Catalan giants, who are looking to make amends for last season when they let a late lead slip at the top as Real overpowered them en route to their 34th La Liga crown.
Of course, Zinedine Zidane’s team cannot be discounted either at
11/4 to win the title, as they are ominously hitting top gear again at exactly the right time. However, with the added welcome distraction of the Champions League still to contend with for Los Blancos, it might just be winner takes all from Saturday’s showdown between first and third.
Odds Suggest Barca Expected To Prevail
The betting shows Barca are slight favourites for the title at
6/5 but Ronald Koeman’s side have shown plenty of nerves of late, particularly when going down 2-1 at home to Granada at the end of last month to surrender their advantage in the run-in.
Irregular observers of Spanish football may suggest it will be one of the big two – Real or Barca – who eventually come out on top but Atletico have broken the duo’s hegemony before in recent memory, when finishing second twice in the past three years and they won the title seven years ago. And, at
8/5 in the outright market, Simeone’s experienced side look great value to do it again.
Atletico Cannot be Dismissed
Make no mistake, Atleti are no underdogs. This is a wily, street-wise team that knows how to get results. They may not quite have the flair of their rivals but with players of the quality of Jan Oblak, Marcos Llorente and Angel Correa – plus not to mention former Barca striker and still prolific centre-forward Luis Suarez in their ranks – it would be foolish in the extreme to dismiss them.
Built on a solid defence, Simeone’s side have carved out plenty of narrow wins as they usually get themselves in front before assuming control over games. They may not always be easy on the eye but they do what it takes.
And coming away from the Nou Camp with at least a point against a nervy Barca is eminently do-able this weekend. A Draw/Atletico double chance bet, on offer at
Real, meanwhile, will hope to make the European Cup final at Chelsea’s expense on Wednesday before they then host Sevilla in another top-four blockbuster on Sunday.
Sevilla Unlikely to Cause Upset
The Andalusians, who are the outsiders among the quartet in the title scrap at
66/1, have only been Spanish champions once (way back in 1946) and, while this has been a season to remember for Julen Lopetegui’s side, it’s likely they will fall just short with six points looking a bridge too far.
Of course, pick up a win on Sunday and they’re right in the mix again but Real should have the knowhow to get the job done at
1/1 to leave it a straight fight between the top three in terms of the title race.
After this weekend, with winnable home games for Atletico to come against Real Sociedad and Osasuna, before a final-day trip to struggling Valladolid, Atletico should – like they have for the majority of the season – remain the team to catch. And unfortunately, for Real and Barca, time is rapidly running out.
*All odds correct at time of writing