The race for La Liga is back on. Real Madrid moved to within a point of leaders Barcelona by beating Getafe 5-1 on Saturday and although the Catalans have a game in hand, Luis Enrique’s side face a huge test at home to Valencia on Sunday as their season threatens to implode.
Barca looked to have wrapped up the title long ago, but the champions have picked up just one point in their last three league fixtures: a 2-2 draw at Villarreal, a 2-1 defeat to Madrid in the Clasico at Camp Nou and a 1-0 loss at Real Sociedad last weekend.
On top of that, Barca’s Champions League hopes were ended on Wednesday night with a 2-0 defeat at Atletico. Suddenly, nothing looks guaranteed for the Blaugrana, with both capital clubs now within touching distance in the Primera Division.
After securing their place in the last four of the Champions League with a thrilling comeback against Wolfsburg on Tuesday night, Madrid made light work of Getafe on Saturday. Warned by Zidane in the build-up that they could not afford to take their lowly city rivals for granted, Real ran out 5-1 winners at the Coliseum.
Five goals and five different scorers as Karim Benzema, Isco, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Cristiano Ronaldo all netted. Meanwhile, Casemiro and Luka Modric were rested, while Zidane substituted Dani Carvajal, Bale and Benzema with the scoreline safe at 3-0.
So suddenly, a season which looked like ending with nothing sees Madrid in serious contention for two trophies: the Champions League and La Liga. And Zidane wants his team to win it all, something that will be music to the ears of president Florentino Perez.
“La Liga is important,” the Frenchman said after the win on Saturday. “We will go to sleep one point behind, but more important than that is the work we are doing. We are just taking it one game at a time.”
And he added: “I wouldn’t take winning the Champions League and not La Liga. I can’t do that. We are going to keep working – and we are playing every three days.”
Madrid are now at home to Villarreal on Wednesday night in their next tough test in the Primera Division, but before that they will watch with interest as title rivals Barca and Atletico both play on Sunday.
Luis Enrique’s men are at home to Valencia in a potential banana skin at Camp Nou. Because even though they lost 7-0 on their last visit, the Mestalla outfit remain dangerous and have improved since Gary Neville left and Pako Ayestaran took over. It is also a fixture Barca lost (3-2) in the 2013-14 season when they missed out on La Liga to Atleti.
“We have to forget about the Champions League because we can’t do anything about that,” Luis Enrique said on Saturday. “The team look good to me, they have recovered, although it is difficult to get over the disappointment. But we are professionals and now we have another challenge: to repeat Liga and Copa.”
Atleti, meanwhile, are at home to Granada on Sunday and a win in that match will see Diego Simeone’s side move back above Madrid in La Liga, with Barca in action afterwards against Valencia.
“We have a very clear situation,” Simeone said on Saturday. “We have to win and then wait and see what Barcelona do. The only part we can resolve is beating Granada.”
If that happens, Atleti will be level at the top of the table, with Real only one point further back as Barca take to the field against Valencia. So the title race is well and truly back on, the pressure very much on the Liga leaders and after their latest slip-up on Wednesday, this time the champions really do need a reaction.