BARCELONA (Reuters) - Real Madrid can almost touch the La Liga title after a five year wait, needing only to avoid defeat to Malaga on Sunday to grab the trophy from the hands of arch rivals Barcelona.
Real lead the standings on 90 points, three above Barcelona. Standing in the way of a first title since 2012 is a Malaga side with little at stake and who are coached by Michel, who spent 14 trophy laden seasons at the Bernabeu.
Madrid famously squandered two consecutive titles in 1992 and 1993 away to Tenerife, then coached by another Real great, Jorge Valdano, handing the trophy to Barcelona on the final day.
Michel stirred controversy in a radio interview last month when he declared “I‘m a much bigger Madrid fan than Valdano”.
However, Michel, who oversaw a surprise 2-0 win over Barca in April, has promised to treat the game like any other: “It’s my Madrid but also my Malaga. I have to respect the competition and always go out to win.”
Barcelona host Eibar and coach Luis Enrique last month said his side’s hopes of stealing the league in the final match were as likely as pigs flying. In his last media appearance, though, he said Malaga had beaten Barca and could spring a surprise on Madrid too.
Real opened up a three-point lead at the top with a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo on Wednesday, returning to the league’s summit for the first time since April 23 when they lost to Barca.
They have been in rampant form since that defeat, hitting 20 goals in five games through 10 different scorers, demonstrating the devastating attacking power coach Zinedine Zidane has at his disposal.
The Frenchman’s rotation policy was criticised early in the season after four straight draws but has paid off with Real hitting their peak in the final run-in, having also reached the Champions League final in June against Juventus.
“We’re all playing as we are thanks to the work of Zidane, thanks to his rotations we can now win the double,” midfielder Isco told reporters after a sensational display against Celta.
“We won another crucial game and now we have to make the final push. Malaga will be as tough as this game but we’re very motivated. A point will be enough, but we’ll go out to win as we always do.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Richard Lough