wo weeks ago, it looked like Atletico Madrid were crumbling under pressure in this thrilling LaLiga title race, but now they’re back in the box seat. Diego Simeone’s side have been fortunate that their rivals haven’t taken full advantage of points dropped, and now it’s back in their hands to complete the job.
All season their tactics have been to grab a goal, sit back and defend their lead. At times I was critical when this didn’t work, as they dropped points. Credit where it’s due, in the past two games Simeone has taken a positive approach, in which they’ve looked to extend leads and kill the game.
Osasuna are safe with nothing to play for, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy match. Late in the season when you’re in this position as a player there’s two options: either you’re on the beach playing with flip-flops on, or you go out with a free mind and enjoy it. The latter mindset can prove dangerous to a team fighting for everything, in the case of Atléti.
I’ve been in a similar position before; fighting for everything when your opponents aren’t, and envious looking over to the other dugout where they’re having a joke and are relaxed. I expect Osasuna to really go for it and it should be a great game.
Real Madrid won at Granada on Thursday in impressive fashion, at a ground which is usually a tough place to travel to. They face as difficult a task this Sunday when they travel to Athletic Club.
Zinedine Zidane trusted his young players at Granada as Marvin Park and Miguel Rodriguez started at right-back and left-back respectively. I think this was not only a show of trust to these young players, but potentially a message to the board looking ahead to new signings in the summer.
Every game is must-win now, and after an excellent performance midweek I expect the title race will go down to the very last minute of the final match. But first, Real need to beat an Athletic side which won’t roll over easily. Marcelino’s men have a good record of upsetting title contenders this season, beating Atlético and Sevilla earlier this season.
When Marcelino took over you could see a great reaction from the players; they had the success of winning the Supercopa but then lost two Copa Del Rey finals and find themselves with little to play for in the league. However, facing Real is a huge game for the players and fans of any Basque side, so I’ve no doubt it’ll be a big test for Zidane’s side.
Barcelona are all but out of the title race after two consecutive draws. There are still positives to take from this season and I think they’ve been the most exciting team in the league, but their defensive problems have been a major issue.
They’ve needed to score four goals in games to be comfortable, because they’re always likely to concede. Strangely, they looked their best defensively when Frenkie De Jong was playing in the middle of a back three.
In December, Barcelona were in a desperate place, the team were playing poorly and the president was on the way out. But since the turn of the year, they won the Copa Del Rey, we’ve seen youngsters coming through and they will have lots of hope going into next season.
Barcelona still have a mathematical chance of winning LaLiga but they will need to rely on results going their way, and their weekend opponents, Celta Vigo, have an outside chance of qualifying for Europe after winning four games in a row.
Celta boss Eduardo Coudet has been one of the signings of the season for them and they’ll be rueing the fact the season is coming to an end. When Coudet took over Celta were a depressed side, lacking ambition. Now, they are one of the most exciting teams to watch in LaLiga and always play to win, regardless of opposition.