Despite getting a 0-0 draw against Elche on Sunday, FC Barcelona will go for the La Liga title next weekend as Atletico Madrid and Málaga ended in a 1-1 draw.
Barcelona had several moments where they could have scored against Elche, but like in too many games this season, Barça lacked some creativity, and couldn't find the back of the net. Credit must be given to Elche for some solid defending.
Alexis Sanchez had a great game, while Pedro was terrible. And to think there are rumors that Alexis could be the winger sold this summer over Pedro. Lionel Messi was good, but not great.
Final: Elche 0-0 FC Barcelona
While Barcelona was struggling at Elche, Atletico Madrid missed out on golden opportunities to beat Malaga. Atleti went down 0-1 in the 65th minute, but soon after the home side equalized. The final minutes were intense, as Malaga went down to 10 men with five minutes to go. Adrian nearly won the game and the Liga for Atleti late as his curling shot was beautifully blocked by Willy Caballero. Willy essentially gave Barcelona one final shot at winning La Liga.
Final: Altetico Madrid 1-1 Málaga
Now, it's all or nothing next week.
The Camp Nou will be intense, as we will have a "championship final" in La Liga. Despite Atleti having one more big game to play after, don't expect Diego Simeone and his team to rest up or to be any less intense. They want the Liga title just as bad as Barça. These two teams have had four draws in their five games played against each other this season, with Atletico getting the lone win out of the five games in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, knocking out Barcelona. It's fitting that Barcelona has to go through them in order to win the title, as Atletico has arguably been the most consistent team in La Liga and Barça's biggest foe this season.
For Tata Martino, it will certainly be his last game as manager of FC Barcelona. We will have to see if Tata decides to go out with the lineup he used for so many "big games" which saw Andres Iniesta at the RW, Cesc Fabregas at midfield along with Xavi. Tata used the lineup against Premier League champions Manchester City in the Champions League (both legs), against Real Madrid in the 4-3 win at the Bernabeu, and against Atleti in their Champions League quarterfinal matchup.
For me, I would not go with the "four mids at the same time" lineup. I'd still go with a more attacking lineup. The "four mids" lineup did not work in the Champions League against Atleti, and I doubt it would work in this last game. Remember, that "four mids" lineup is meant to slow the game down, and Atleti won't mind slowing the game down, as a draw is good enough for them. Would having Iniesta at LW be more dynamic for Barça instead of having Pedro at LW? Yes, but FCB's counterattack would slow down. Also, Atletico doesn't care if Barcelona has ball possession. Who cares if Barça has 67% possession when Atletico are defending well, counterattack well, and Barcelona only has two true forwards? For me, if Neymar can get ready in time, he plays. Pedro would start if Neymar weren't able to play. Pedro has been poor, but Tata Martino doesn't have many options left.
Neymar, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique are not fit to play as of now, but I'm sure they will do all they can this week to get ready for Saturday.
After the Elche game, Javier Mascherano told the media, "The Liga will be decided in the game against Atletico. For some of us, it could be our last game for Barça." Dani Alves said, "I don't know if this will be my last game at the Camp Nou. All I know this that I will give my all for this team." Masche and Dani know this is probably the last game for them in a Barcelona kit. Rumors of Javier's move to Napoli and Dani's move to PSG have been reported for a while now. Javier and Dani know that they may not be in the club's future plans, and they are ready to give all they can for Barcelona one last time. Other players that may/more than likely be playing their last game in a Barça kit include Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Song, Cristian Tello, and perhaps Cesc Fabregas. We all know Jose Manuel Pinto's contract will not be renewed.
The Barça vs. Atleti game is sold out, so we will see nearly 100,000 fans ready to witness the top two teams in the table go at it for the title. My hope is that the Camp Nou crowd (finally) be loud, cheering on this Barcelona team. The crowd needs to play a big part in the game.
As I mentioned in my article last week, for me, what I wish to see is Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes lift the Liga championship trophy one last time at the Camp Nou with both of them stating, "This is for you, Tito!" VV and El Capita deserve to go out as champions one last time, and Tito gets another deserving tribute.
For the first time since 1951, the two teams atop the La Liga table will play for the Liga title in the final game of the season.
Barcelona and Atleti started the competitive season in Spain facing off in the Spanish Supercup, and will end the Spanish competitive season battling it out for the Liga title.
This is it! After next Saturday, there is no more tomorrow in La Liga. A champion will be crowned at the Camp Nou.
Will it be Atleti, finally breaking through for their first Liga title since 1995-96?
Will it be Barcelona, winning the Liga in the last game of a chaotic season , and at the end of their current era?
All of these questions will be answered next week, after 90 minutes of war ends at the Camp Nou.
Fight for your teammates!
Fight for yourself!
Fight for your club!
Fight for the title!
Time to rise, Barça!
Vamos Futbol Club Barcelona! Take this Liga, and crown yourselves champions!
Xoel, The Voice of els Culés