Zee Media Bureau/Rajdeep Saha
New Delhi: After leaders Atletico Madrid and second placed Barcelona drew their respective matches in La Liga on Sunday, the battle for league title is finely poised for the final match-day.
Barcelona are to host Atletico at the Nou Camp on May 18 and an intense showdown is likely to occupy Spain just as a similar unfolding was witnessed in England on Sunday. Manchester City, who defeated West Ham United at the Etihad, sealed the honours despite Liverpool winning their tie against 9-men Newcastle United at Anfield. City needed a draw at the least and they got to the finish line in an emphatic manner.
A similar intensity has already got Spain excited where Atletico lead Barca by three points and a draw is enough for Diego Simeone`s side to be crowned as champions of Spain. Barca, on the other hand, are eyeing their second successive title and only a win will fulfil their ambitions as they have a better head to head record.
1994 was the last time when La Liga title was decided on the final day. Barca had won the title thrice back during the early 1990`s including the 1993-94 season on the final day. Since then there has been a duopoly rule, sharing the honours between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Only Valencia (2), Deportivo la Coruna (1) and Atletico Madrid (1) have won the title in between since 1994. In these 20 years, these seemingly fringe outfits have won the title a meagre four times. The rest 16 has belonged to Real and Barca. Such has been the dominance of two of the world`s biggest clubs and that resulted in La Liga being merely one sided with a huge gap between them and the others.
The 2013-14 season has witnessed one of the best domestic competitions in Spain and until the second last match-day, three teams were seen vying for the title. But Real fumbled after losing to Celta Vigo, thus leaving Atletico and Barca in the race. What is interesting is that Atletico`s squad doesn`t boast of big name players as their rivals do and nor do they have the monetary cushion. With a limited squad, Diego Simeone has reached a place where very few managers can ever succeed. This went onto Simeone thanking the mothers of his team`s players for giving them the `balls` to perform with such ability after they qualified for the Champions League final.
But as history suggest, Gerardo Martino`s men go into the tie as favourites but they take on a fearless Atletico Madrid outfit who have taken the world by surprise with their performances this season. Barca are yet to beat Atletico this season, in five attempts and the latter ousted Martino`s side in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Though both the sides look tired after a long season, the players with the `bigger balls` will see themselves getting crowned as the champions of Spain.