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|Diego Simeone’s have just one more hurdle to overcome, and the Argentine will make sure his team are not caught out defensively. The title looks to be on its way to the Wanda Metropolitano.|
|Real Valladolid vs Atletico Madrid Information|
|Teams||Real Valladolid vs Atletico Madrid|
|Location||Estadio Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid, Spain|
|Time||Sunday, 23 May 2021, 12.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||beIN SPORTS|
And then there were two. A few weeks ago, four teams – Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla – were all in the La Liga title race. At one point it looked as if Barcelona had become the favorites to claim the prize. But with just one round of fixtures remaining, the championship is on its way to the capital. The only thing still to be decided is whether the trophy ends up in the cabinet of Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid.
Atletico are in pole position to finish on top of the pile after a day of drama last Sunday. Barcelona’s 2-1 defeat by Celta Vigo knocked them out of the race, leaving Zinedine Zidane’s charges chasing Diego Simeone’s side. It was, at one stage, Real Madrid who were leading the race. They took the lead against Athletic Bilbao while Atletico had yet to make the breakthrough against Osasuna. When Atletico then fell behind against the run of play, Madrid fans started to believe their team might just retain the title after all.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Renan Lodi equalized at the Wanda Metropolitano in the 82nd minute, but Atletico still needed a goal to go back on top. It arrived in the 89th minute via the boot of Luis Suarez, who has now scored 20 goals in La Liga this season. Barcelona must be seriously regretting their decision to let the Uruguay international join a domestic rival last summer. If Atletico do go on to win the league, Suarez will have played a huge part in their success.
With one game left, Atletico’s task is simple. If they beat Real Valladolid, they will be crowned champions of Spain for the first time since 2014. If they draw, however, they will be left sweating on the outcome at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. A Madrid win there would bring Zidane’s team the title if Atletico drop points against Real Valladolid. There is still everything to play for.
Simeone would no doubt have preferred to face a mid-table side with nothing to play for on the final weekend. Real Valladolid do not fit that description. They need all three points for their own reasons, as they continue their battle against relegation. That battle has not been going particularly well of late: a winless run of 11 games has left Valladolid two points adrift of safety after 37 matchdays.
The calendar year to date has been miserable for Sergio Gonzalez’s side. A 1-0 triumph over Getafe on January 2 left Valladolid in a decent position, in 15th place and with their sights set on some of the teams above them. Since then, however, they have won just one of 20 encounters. Unsurprisingly, that form has seen them slip into the relegation zone, and they face a huge fight to get out of it before the curtain comes down on the campaign.
A draw will not be enough for Valladolid to get out of trouble. They must beat Atletico and then hope that Huesca and Elche lose to Valencia and Athletic Bilbao respectively. If they finish level on points with Huesca, Valladolid will go down due to an inferior head-to-head record. In other words, Gonzalez’s men need a minor miracle to avoid the drop from here.
Atletico Madrid opened up a 10-point lead at the summit of the standings in January. With Real Madrid and Barcelona experiencing various problems, it looked as if Simeone’s side would stroll to the title. It has not worked out that way, though, with Atletico unable to maintain its sizable advantage. Losses to Levante, Sevilla, and Athletic Bilbao (and, to a lesser extent, draws with Celta Vigo, Levante, Getafe and Real Betis) blew the race wide open.
Atletico now looks to have rediscovered their nerve at the most important moment. They have won three of their last four games and were the better team in the other, a 0-0 draw with Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
We could still be in store for a dramatic afternoon in Spain’s top flight, but it is hard not to see the league leaders getting the job done from here. Four of their last six wins have come with clean sheets attached, and Simeone will have spent the last few days making sure his players are fully aware of the importance of a solid backline on Sunday.
Back Atletico to beat Real Valladolid to nil and win the La Liga title for the 11th time in the club’s history.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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