Barcelona out to reclaim La Liga top spot as title race heats up






Barcelona can move back to the top of La Liga on Tuesday but the title is now Real Madrid's to lose after they gained two points on their great rivals in the last round of matches.



It’s advantage Real Madrid in the Spanish title race but Barcelona could move back to the top of the table if they beat Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday at the Camp Nou.
Madrid now lead the head-to-head record between the sides after their 2-1 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday but they don’t play until Wednesday and Barcelona can return to the top 24-hours earlier.
“Real Madrid are not going to win every game,” said Quique Setien after Barcelona dropped two points against Sevilla in the last round of matches.
“We knew beforehand that it would be practically impossible to win all our games. I’m not happy to pick up only a point but it is not the worst that can happen.”
Barcelona must get back to winning ways at home against Gaizka Garitano’s team. And they must do so without Frenkie de Jong; the Dutch midfielder has a calf injury and is out for two weeks which  could means he misses as many as four games.
Gerard Pique was especially pessimistic after that defeat to Sevilla. The defender said: “I think it will be very difficult for us to win this league after seeing how the first two matchdays [back] went.”
It was suggested that Pique was implying to perceived favourable refereeing decisions assisting Real Madrid. Conspiracy theories went into overdrive on Sunday when three tight decisions went Madrid’s way.
Vinicius won a soft first-half penalty, Real Sociedad had a goal ruled out for offside, and Karim Benzema was adjudged to have used his shoulder and not his arm to control the ball before scoring the second Madrid goal. 
Of the controversy around borderline-refereeing decisions going Madrid’s way Zinedine Zidane said: “Referees have a very difficult job. Now they have the video assistant referee to help them and we have to respect the decisions."
Zidane added: “The fact that we now depend on ourselves to win the league changes absolutely nothing. This season is not going to be resolved in the next round of matches.”
Sergio Ramos was taken off in the second half and needed to have his left knee strapped with ice. Zidane said: "He’s in a bad way but we hope it’s just a blow to the leg. It hurts him now but hopefully it is not more serious than that.”
Real Madrid hope Ramos can return to face Mallorca at home on Wednesday. Zidane is also likely to recall Eden Hazard for that game after resting him in the win over Real Sociedad.
On Monday fourth-placed Sevilla face Villarreal, who are up to seventh. Atletico Madrid face Levante 24-hours later having beaten Valladolid on Saturday to move above Sevilla in the table.
On Thursday all eyes will be on Betis’ home game with Espanyol. This would have been Rubi up against his former club but he was sacked on Sunday, a day after losing against Athletic Bilbao.
Alexis Trujillo is the stand-in Betis coach, taking charge with Betis in free-fall and needing to beat bottom club Espanyol to not be dragged into the scrap at the foot of the table.
Other games in matchday 31 see Leganes face Granada at home, Valladolid host Getafe, Alaves meet Osasuna, Real Sociedad play Celta Vigo, and Eibar play Valencia.

 


Monday, June 22nd 2020
By Peter Jenson,
           


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