La Liga state of play: Barcelona and Real Madrid two points apart with four games remaining
Ahead of a busy weekend of La Liga action on Sky Sports, we take a look at what is at stake...
By Gerard Brand
Last Updated: 01/05/15 11:05am
Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted the Premier League title was heading to Stamford Bridge this season, but the outlook on the continent is far less clear.
Barcelona lead Real Madrid by two points in La Liga with four games remaining, and although last season's final-day victory for Atletico Madrid will be difficult to match for drama, the heavyweight plot is set up nicely for the remaining four weeks.
Here, we guide you on what to look out for before the season finale at the top and bottom.
The title run-in...
Both Luis Enrique and Carlo Ancelotti said March's Clasico would not decide the title, but that insistence is yet to hold up.
After six straight Real league wins since the 2-1 defeat, the Clasico has not produced the Madrid derailment it promised, but the fixture run-in suggests the next four weeks could be an eye for an eye contest.
Matchdays 35 and 37 stand out; Real travelling to Sevilla, who are battling for a Champions League spot while juggling the Europa League, and Barca going to the Calderon to face Atletico, whose boss Diego Simeone will not pass the trophy on without a fight.
Matchday 35 - Cordoba (20th) v Barcelona; Sevilla (4th) v Real Madrid
Matchday 36 - Barcelona v Real Sociedad (12th); Real Madrid v Valencia (5th)
Matchday 37 - Atletico Madrid (3rd) v Barcelona; Espanyol (10th) v Real Madrid
Matchday 38 - Barcelona v Deportivo (18th); Real Madrid v Getafe (13th)
After a relentless first half to the season, the loss of Luka Modric and James Rodriguez in February coincided with a loss of form at Real. Rodriguez has returned without complications, but Modric's next four weeks are up in the air.
He has missed the last two games, and despite Ancelotti predicting a return for the second leg of the Champions League semi-final clash with Juventus on May 13, the feeling in Madrid is that a fully-fit Modric since September would have them in pole.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have played 546 more minutes than Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez this term, despite Barcelona reaching the Copa del Rey final, adding fuel to the argument in Madrid that Ancelotti is overplaying his star men.
The Italian's future itself is still insecure, and even a La Liga title win may not be enough for a board still desperate to prove its force in the Champions League after a decade of underachieving.
Since the defeat at Real Sociedad on their return from the winter break - simply coined 'Anoeta' after Sociedad's stadium by the Spanish press - Barca have taken 46 points out of a possible 51, quickly turning talk of Enrique's unknown future into talk of an unprecedented second treble in seven years.
The 2-2 draw at Sevilla was a shock to the system after cruising at 2-0, but the four wins since, against PSG home and away, Valencia and city rivals Espanyol, have extinguished any talk of a slip.
The relatively unchanged front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, the scorers of 29 of their last 35 league goals, has got them to the summit, and will no doubt be to thank if they are still there at close of play on May 24.
But Javier Hernandez's emergence from the bench at Real has already handed them a win at Celta and passage to the Champions League semi-final, and remember, the Mexican is used to a title race.
His goals earned Manchester United 16 points in their 2010/11 title-winning campaign, and 10 points in their 2012/13 success. Will he stay in the team when Benzema returns?
Four years since they last reached the Champions League group stages, Sevilla are battling for fourth again, this time with a resurgent Valencia, on the up after several seasons of financial uncertainty.
Valencia need it more, and are currently a point behind Sevilla, but with a game in hand.
Sevilla progressed to the Europa League semi-finals last week, and the reward for a victory in the final in Wolfsburg would be a Champions League spot. A high incentive, but they will leave nothing to chance.
Predictions? Current form is no indication of how it will finish; both sides have earned 21 points out of a possible 30 in the league.
At the bottom, Cordoba need a miracle to salvage an 11-point gap from safety, while Granada's woeful record of two wins in the league since September has them six points adrift.
Eibar, the story of the early season after the tiny Basque side reached ninth place in December, have picked up just five points out of a possible 48, and are now just two points above 18th-placed Deportivo.
Live on Sky
(All shown on Sky Sports 5 HD unless stated)
Saturday, May 2 - Cordoba v Barcelona (3pm KO, shown in full via red button at 5.15pm); Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao (5pm KO, shown live from 5.15pm); Sevilla v Real Madrid (9pm)
Sunday, May 3 - Valencia v Eibar (6pm); Malaga v Elche (8pm)
Saturday, May 9 - Barcelona v Real Sociedad (5pm KO, shown live from 5.15pm); Real Madrid v Valencia (7pm)
Sunday, May 10 - Levante v Atletico Madrid (11am, Sky Sports 3, second half on red button); Celta Vigo v Sevilla (8pm)
Further fixtures yet to be announced