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Real can seal Liga title with Girona assistance
Published on: Saturday, May 04, 2024
By: AFP
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Real can seal Liga title with Girona assistance
Girona can make club history with a Catalan derby victory over second placed Barcelona.
BARCELONA: La Liga leaders Real Madrid have their first chance to be crowned champions this weekend, although they require a helping hand from this season’s shock challengers Girona to make it happen.

Madrid host Cadiz on Saturday and if they win and Girona take any points off champions Barcelona immediately afterwards, Los Blancos will earn a record-extending 36th Spanish title.

It seems fitting for Michel Sanchez’s side to have a say on a potentially decisive day, after they were Madrid’s main contenders for pole position for much of the season.

The wheels came off Girona’s bandwagon after Carlo Ancelotti’s side thrashed them 4-0 in February, but they composed themselves and are on the verge of Champions League qualification for the first time in the club’s history.

Girona, in only their fourth season in Spain’s top flight, can make club history with a Catalan derby victory over second-place Barcelona, who trail Madrid by 11 points.

They can also guarantee a top four finish if fifth-place Athletic Bilbao lose at Getafe on Friday. Girona, third, are 13 points clear of the Basque side with 15 in play.

Even though La Liga could be theirs this weekend, the Cadiz match is not Madrid’s biggest concern, as it falls between the two legs of their Champions League semi-final battle with Bayern Munich.

Los Blancos earned a creditable 2-2 draw in Munich thanks to Vinicius Junior’s brace and host the German giants on Wednesday.

Ancelotti will likely shuffle his pack, as he did in their narrow win over Real Sociedad in La Liga last week.

The coach’s second string, including the likes of 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric, who is poised to depart at the end of the season, target-man Joselu, and veterans Nacho and Lucas Vazquez, has not let him down when called upon.

French defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni is set to miss the game with a knock, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could make his first appearance of the season.

Ancelotti said the Belgian was ready to return against Cadiz after two knee injuries have kept him sidelined since pre-season.

The coach may also rest top scorer Jude Bellingham, who has struggled with various physical issues in the second half of the season.

“He hasn’t been at his best, but he’ll be back very soon and by Wednesday he’ll be at 100 percent,” said Ancelotti.

Cadiz travel to the Bernabeu still clinging to slim hopes of survival. The Andalucians are 18th, five points from safety behind Celta Vigo.

“The situation is very tricky and I understand the tension... but there are five games to go,” said Cadiz goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma.

“It’s true we’re going to a very tricky place, but we will try and get the three points to stay in the fight to be in La Liga.

“We have to show that we want to save ourselves and that’s what we want the fans to see, that we really want to do it.”

The Ukrainian striker’s goals have been Girona’s most essential fuel in a remarkable campaign. Dovbyk has 19 and is the top scorer in Spain, with Jude Bellingham and Alexander Sorloth behind him on 17 each. 

Barcelona hitman Robert Lewandowski has one fewer and after his hat-trick against Valencia on Monday, is hoping to keep climbing the charts to retain the ‘Pichichi’ trophy. 

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