Real Madrid are set to rub salt into the wounds of their arch rivals by parading their 31st Spanish league trophy when they host Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium today.
Real fans waited until the early hours to celebrate with the players at Cibeles fountain on Sunday night after Real retained the title with a thrilling late 2-1 victory over Osasuna.
The celebrations could go into another dimension when Real are presented with the trophy in front of a full house at the Bernabeu — although soccer is likely to dominate with Barcelona in need of the points to wrest second place from Villarreal.
“It will be a great party against Barcelona that is for sure,” Real coach Bernd Schuster said. “We deserve this title as we have been the best team this season and now we can enjoy it.”
Despite the temptation to rub salt into Barca’s wounds, Real president Ramon Calderon revealed his Barcelona counterpart Joan Laporta had congratulated him after the Osasuna game.
“His was the first call that I received, just before we touched down, at 1:20 in the morning. Joan Laporta congratulated me and I thought it was a really great gesture,” Calderon said.
After losing out to Real in the title race for the past two seasons, Laporta and the Barca board have a decision to make on coach Frank Rijkaard, who could be attending his final Clasico.
Barca thumped Valencia 6-0 in their last match and, unlike Real, they have something to play for as they bid to overtake Villarreal who are currently four points ahead in second.
“This was the best way to go to the Bernabeu — with high morale. There are three key points at stake and we’ll go to win,” Argentine forward Lionel Messi said.
As Barca set out to avenge their 1-0 loss to Real at the Nou Camp in December they will do so without the suspended Samuel Eto’o and Deco.
While Real-Barca is the obvious highlight of the midweek fixture program, there are several other games with high stakes. Racing Santander host Sevilla in a duel to decide who will claim the final Champions League spot. Racing are a point ahead of Sevilla and neither side can afford to drop any points if they want to put pressure on fourth-placed Atletico Madrid.
“It is a key match against a direct rival because there isn’t much between us in the Champions League race,” Sevilla defender Daniel Alves said.
Atletico, two points ahead of Racing and three ahead of Sevilla, travel to Espanyol tomorrow knowing they just need to hold their nerve in the final three games.
Down at the bottom there is a real dogfight to stay in the league and Valencia, fourth last season, host Real Zaragoza today in a surprise relegation six-pointer. Valencia have shipped 60 goals in this season — only relegated Levante have conceded more — and lie two points above the drop. Zaragoza are a point below Valencia, but are on a high after a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna last time out while Valencia were thrashed 6-0 by Barcelona.
Getafe have been tussling for trophies in the UEFA Cup and Kings Cup this season, but now they are two points above the relegation zone going into today’s match with Almeria.
After their devastating 2-1 loss against Real, third from bottom Osasuna must pick themselves up for a tricky trip to Real Mallorca. Recreativo Huelva are level on 40 points with Osasuna and have a difficult home match against in-form Villarreal today.