Madrid, May 13 (IANS) FC Barcelona and Real Madrid face vital matches as the race for the La Liga football title goes into the final straight. League leaders Barcelona, who have played one more game than Madrid, know the destiny of the title is not in their hands, but that they have to win their two remaining matches and hope that Real Madrid slip up.
Luis Enrique’s Barcelona face a Las Palmas side that appears to be in freefall since coach Quique Setien announced two months ago he was leaving at the end of the season, reports Xinhua news agency.
Since then Las Palmas have won just one game and suffered defeats to sides such as Sporting Gijon and Leganes, while conceding five goals against both Atletico Madrid and Athletic Club Bilbao.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique is a doubt for the trip to the Canary Islands, while Aleix Vidal is a long-term absentee in what is Enrique’s penultimate league match in charge.
“We have important absences in defence, but it will be a good challenge to see how we adapt to the situation,” Enrique said, according to Barcelona’s Twitter handle.
“It will be a difficult game. They will demand a lot from us, we will need to have a great game.”
Real Madrid are at home against Sevilla in a game that kicks off at the same time as Barcelona’s game and go into the game after qualifying for the Champions League final on Wednesday night.
They also know that seven points from their last three matches will assure them the title. Real head coach Zinedine Zidane will have to consider whether to field his strongest 11 or to rest footballers who played in midweek, especially as his side has to play away to Celta Vigo in another potentially decisive match on Wednesday night.
“We have been consistent this season and our goals are within reach. We want to keep working hard, the toughest test is still to come,” Zidane said.
“The details matter in football. Until now we’ve been phenomenal. We’re in the Champions League final and we’re doing well in La Liga, we haven’t won anything just yet. We’re doing well physically and mentally. It will not affect us playing hard games till the end. We’re playing tomorrow and again on Wednesday and there will be changes.”
Veteran defender Pepe will probably return to the side for what looks as if it will be his last home match for Real Madrid given that he has not signed a new contract with the capital club, while Nacho Fernandez could play at right back to cover for the injured Dani Carvajal.
Meanwhile forward Gareth Bale remains injured and as he watches from the sidelines the Welshman will possibly reflect on how his injury has coincided with Zidane finding a new formation which has allowed his side to enjoy more midfield control over their rivals.
Sevilla meanwhile appear destined to finish fourth in the table after running out of steam in recent weeks and with midfielder Pablo Sarabia out through suspension.