LaLiga within touching distance

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Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Say it quietly, but Real Madrid are on the verge of winning their 34th LaLiga title.

With four games to go this season, Los Blancos lead Barcelona by four points and with a better head-to-head record. Only an emphatic change in fortunes would take the title away from the Spanish capital now.

Not that coach Zinedine Zidane wants to talk about the title just yet. The Frenchman is famously conservative in front of the press as a coach, and understandably so, but the excitement level amongst the fans is growing.

“What we have to do is to think about what we’re doing,” Zidane said after Sunday’s 1-0 victory at Athletic Club. “We can’t listen to the outside world because LaLiga will go right to the end, as it always has done. We’re focused on the games we’ve still got to play. At the moment we have to congratulate the players for what they’re doing because they’ve won seven out of seven, but we haven’t won anything.”

The run-in is favourable for Madrid and so are the odds with Real Madrid’s average La Liga odds are now -1200, while Barca’s are +667. Alavés visit on Friday night before Madrid visit Granada the following Monday. The final two matchdays of the season will see all key matches kick-off simultaneously, with Los Blancos hosting Villarreal before making the short trip to local rivals Leganes.

On current form few would bet against Madrid dropping points in any of those matches, with Zidane’s men winning all seven of their matches since the return to action – the trickiest being away wins at Real Sociedad and Athletic Club last time out.

“With a 4-point lead and the goal average in our favour, winning LaLiga is in our hands,” said Dani Carvajal following last week’s home win over Getafe. “The coach’s message since isolation has been clear. It’s a case of 11 finals and we want to take 33 points. That’s the team’s bread and butter. Our success has been based on conceding few goals, just two since the restart. We’ve conceded less goals than anyone else and if we carry on in this vein we know we can lift the trophy.”

Indeed, Madrid’s form since the restart has been emphatic, if not in front of goal then keeping the goals out. A Sergio Ramos penalty has been the deciding factor in Madrid’s last two matches but Madrid have conceded just twice in seven matches since the restart, with Thibaut Courtois surging ahead in the race for the Zamora Trophy with five clean sheets from seven matches.

Los Blancos’ squad depth has certainly helped, with players such as Marco Asensio, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde amongst others all coming in when called upon. The fact that Madrid could call upon Toni Kroos as their fifth substitute at San Mamés on Sunday was telling.

Little has changed at the back, however, with Courtois in goal, Ramos and Varane the preferred centre-back pairing before Varane’s injury, Carvajal starting at right-back and Marcelo and Ferland Mendy trading places at left- back. Casemiro, sitting just in front of the back four, has been crucial.

Now it could be those clean sheets, rather than attacking flair, that help clinch the title for Madrid. With four matches to go, their fate is well and truly in their hands.

 

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