Atletico closing in on title

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The Independent Online
The Spanish league season reaches its conclusion tonight, with Atletico Madrid and Valencia fighting it out on the final day.

Only one combination of results will give Valencia the title - they must win away at Celta Vigo while Atletico lose their home game with struggling Albacete. Whatever the outcome, it will be the first time that a side other than Real Madrid or Barcelona has won the Spanish title since Athletic Bilbao in 1984.

Bilbao's goalkeeper then was the Spanish No 1 Andoni Zubizarreta, and he is now in goal for Valencia having won four Spanish championships with Barcelona in the interim. Valencia's last league title was in 1971, while Atletico's last was 1977.

With an 11-point lead at the half-way stage most people expected Atletico to take the title long ago, but Valencia, then 15 points adrift, have whittled down the gap to just two. Atletico have dropped 20 points at home in a disastrous run of form in the Vicente Calderon stadium, particularly against weaker opposition like Albacete.

Playing in the top division this season only because of a bureaucratic bungle at other clubs, Albacete need to win to escape the relegation play-offs for the second year in succession.

Albacete's four rivals to avoid the two play-off places will be Seville, Valladolid, Rayo Vallecano and Athletic Bilbao, the eight-times champions who have fallen on hard times.