News Column

Barcelona Champions if Real Madrid Fail to Beat Malaga

May 7, 2013

Duncan Shaw

Barcelona will celebrate their 22nd Spanish league title on Wednesday if Real Madrid fail to beat Malaga at home.

The Real-Malaga fixture was originally scheduled for May 19 but has been brought forward to Wednesday because Real will face neighbours Atletico in the Spanish cup final on May 17.

Real are currently 11 points behind Barca with four games left. Therefore, should they fail to beat Malaga - who last season battled out a 1-1 draw in the Estadio Bernabeu - then Barca will be celebrate the title without kicking a ball in anger.

That would be particularly sweet for Barca coach Tito Vilanova, who is back in New York this week to continue with his treatment for throat cancer.

A celebration is just what Barca need after that painful 7-0 aggregate meltdown against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the Champions League, a humiliation which confirmed that the Catalans need a profound renovation this summer.

Little playmaker Andres Iniesta said: "They (the defeats against Bayern) really hurt us, and the fans as well. It was really painful.

"Now we need to make a few changes. However, we should not assume that everything is wrong at the club, because this week we could become league champions. So obviously we have done something right this season."

When asked about the feud at Real between coach Jose Mourinho and Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who has been consigned to the subs' bench, Iniesta was as under-stated and diplomatic as ever.

"From a distance this situation is difficult to understand, given what Iker has always represented. It is strange that he is not playing. What is also strange is all the things we are hearing. It is a difficult situation.

"Diego Lopez (who has replaced Casillas in the Real goal) is playing very well and he is a great keeper, but I am not referring to the sporting situation but to the extra-sporting things that we are hearing from Madrid."

Mourinho has made himself extremely unpopular not only by dropping Casillas but also by criticizing Spain's captain in public.

The latest player to take the side of Casillas has been defender Pepe, who criticized Mourinho for "showing a lack of respect" for the keeper after Saturday's 4-3 home defeat of Valladolid.

Pepe's outburst might well have left Mourinho thinking "et tu Brutus?" because he has always stood up for Pepe when the rugged defender has been criticized for his regular moments of violence on the field.

According to Marca daily Tuesday, only three players - Lopez, Michael Essien and Luka Modric - are now on good terms with Mourinho, and the rest are keen to see him leave the club.

Malaga will come to Madrid in aggressive mood, after slipping down to sixth Saturday with a 1-0 defeat at Granada.

Their Brazilian veteran Julio Baptista said: "We can't afford to drop any more points at all after Saturday's loss. That is why we will do whatever it takes to get a good result Wednesday."

Wednesday will also see Atletico Madrid visit Celta Vigo, who are second from bottom and in massive trouble.

Celta defender Andres Tuenez said: "It's very simple: either we beat Atletico or our season is in ruins. We have to pick up at least 10 points from our last four games, that's the only way for us to survive."

Atletico will make the trip in a relaxed mood having already guaranteed a third-place finish and therefore a direct place in next season's Champions League.

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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