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Thursday, April 26, 2012
Madrid seeking solace in league

Real Madrid have a slim chance of putting their agonising Champions League exit behind them by clinching their 32nd Primera Division title this weekend.

Madrid looked set to progress to next month's final in Germany last night after moving 3-2 ahead on aggregate, but Bayern Munich hit back through Arjen Robben and the Germans then proceeded to knock Jose Mourinho's men out of the competition on penalties in the Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Sergio Ramos all missed spot-kicks as Madrid crashed out, but their disappointment could be short-lived as they have a chance of wrapping the league title up with three matches to spare this weekend.

After prevailing in El Clasico at the Camp Nou last weekend, Madrid have a seven-point advantage which they could stretch to ten if they beat ninth-placed Sevilla at home on Sunday lunchtime.

Should Rayo Vallecano beat Barcelona on Sunday night, the title will be Madrid's, and the club's players are already keen to move on from the painful defeat to Bayern.

"It's a shame we haven't been able to get to the final, but we will be back next year," captain Iker Casillas said. "Now all we can think about is the Spanish league. With the support of the fans it will be much easier to move on.

"I know it will be hard but the strongest always pick themselves up and we are the strongest."

Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso echoed his team-mates comments, adding: "It was a shame but we have to move on from this as soon as possible.

"You can practise a penalty shootout, but it never resembles the real thing. We were all convinced of scoring and we don't know why we missed them."

Despite wowing the world with a series of hugely impressive attacking displays, Barca's season has been plunged in to turmoil over the last fortnight.

Defeat to Madrid and their Champions League loss to Chelsea over two legs has led to questions about the long-term future of manager Pep Guardiola.

The former Barcelona midfielder has been strongly linked with Chelsea and is out of contract in the summer.

The 41-year-old, who has lifted three Primera Division titles and two Champions Leagues since taking over in 2008, could yet end this season with silverware though if his team beat Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on May 25, and midfielder Andres Iniesta has vowed that he and his team-mates will give their all until the end of the season.

The Spain international said: "We are Barca and we know what that represents, so we will be going out to win all our remaining league games. That's the best way to prepare for the cup final."

Valencia have a chance to pull six points clear of fourth-placed Malaga when they travel to La Rosaleda on Sunday while fellow Champions League-chasers Levante host Granada, who will all but secure their top-flight status with a draw.

Only a huge swing in goal difference over the following three games will see 17th-placed Villarreal relegated if they beat Osasuna at home on Saturday.

Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza, who sit 18th and 19th respectively, will not be mathematically relegated if they drop points in their games against Espanyol and sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao respectively, but they both desperately need to win to keep their hopes of survival alive.

Bottom club Racing Santander, who are already relegated, travel to Real Sociedad while Real Betis host Atletico Madrid and Getafe welcome Real Mallorca.




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