Real Madrid await La Liga coronation as Jose Mourinho has his day

Victory for Real at Bilbao tomorrow can put end to four years of dominance by rivals Barcelona

Success-starved Real Madrid fans will finally be able to stage the traditional title celebrations at the Cibeles fountain in the centre of the Spanish capital tomorrow night if Jose Mourinho's side win at Athletic Bilbao.

After four years living in the shadow of bitter rivals Barcelona, when only a King's Cup was added to the trophy cabinet, many of them will also be celebrating the imminent departure of the Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, who announced on Friday he was stepping down at the end of the season.

Guardiola has been a hugely irritating thorn in Real's side since taking over in 2008, leading Barça to 13 trophies including two Champions Leagues and three successive La Liga titles. However, the arrival of the combative Mourinho from Internazionale in 2010 is finally starting to bear fruit. His free-scoring Real side, eliminated on penalties by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals last week, have 91 points with three games remaining.

Barça, who host Malaga earlier tomorrow – kicking off two hours before Real – are seven adrift and resigned to the fact that their three-year stranglehold on the La Liga title is drawing to an end.

"We know that Madrid are the champions," Guardiola, who will be replaced by his close friend and long-term assistant Tito Vilanova next season, said after watching his side hammer Rayo Vallecano 7-0 on Sunday.

"This game was a demonstration of what this team has achieved," added the 41-year-old, who is taking time away from football to recharge his batteries. "The club is healthy, there is a young squad, Tito knows the players perfectly and I am convinced Barça will continue competing at the highest level in every competition."

The normally outspoken Mourinho has shunned the media in recent weeks, sending out his assistant Aitor Karanka before and after La Liga matches.

Karanka said after Real's 3-0 home win over Seville on Sunday that winning the title at the San Mames against Europa League finalists Bilbao would be a special experience.

"But nobody is thinking about anything other than winning the three points that we need wherever and whenever that might be," he added. "It's clear that winning a championship like the Spanish league, with all the effort it costs and everything that goes with it, is important. The sooner the better."

The fight for the third automatic Champions League berth and fourth – which carries a qualification spot for Europe's elite club competition – has intensified in recent weeks, with Valencia struggling to hold off ambitious, Qatar-owned Malaga.

The Andalusian club earned a 1-0 home win over Valencia on Sunday to draw level on 55 points but remain fourth because of a poorer head-to-head record.

After Malaga's game at the Nou Camp, Valencia tomorrow host eighth-placed Osasuna, who are still in with a chance of a berth in the Europa League next season along with Levante, Bilbao and their opponents in next month's final, Atletico Madrid.

With Racing Santander already relegated, Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza continue their unlikely campaigns for survival at home to Villarreal and Levante respectively.

Gijon, in 19th, could close to within a point of Villarreal with a win on Saturday, but will be joined on 37 by Zaragoza if they manage to beat fifth-placed Levante on Sunday. Rayo and Granada are also in serious peril in 15th and 16th, and play Real Mallorca and Espanyol respectively.

In France, the Paris St-Germain coach, Carlo Ancelotti, is refusing to concede the Ligue 1 title despite Sunday's 2-1 defeat at third-placed Lille. That left the Italian's Qatar-backed side five points adrift of a modest-spending Montpellier ahead of their game against Evian tonight, with PSG due to host in-form St Etienne tomorrow.

"There are still four games to play, it's not finished," Ancelotti said. "We have not lost the title yet, we have to believe everything is possible. It will be more difficult but it's not over."

Sunday's victory means the defending champions Lille are suddenly back in contention for an automatic Champions League spot a further two points behind. But while Ancelotti has yet to give up on the title race, his players appear to believe the gap at the top is insurmountable.

"We now need more than a miracle," said the midfielder Momo Sissoko.

"We can forget the title," added the goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, one of PSG's high-profile signings. "If Montpellier let it slip away, they're stupid."

Sirigu's frank assessment was dismissed by the Montpellier coach René Girard, who preferred to turn his attention to the side's next fixture. "I'm not listening to that kind of comment," Girard said . "You can only celebrate what you have won."

Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003