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Real time to go gaga at Malaga

Pretoria News
Real Madrid can almost touch the La Liga title after a five-year wait, needing only to avoid defeat to Malaga on Sunday to grab the trophy from the hands of arch-rivals Barcelona.

Real lead the standings on 90 points, three above Barcelona. Standing in the way of a first title since 2012 is a Malaga side with little at stake and who are coached by Michel, who spent 14 trophy-laden seasons at the Bernabeu.

Madrid famously squandered two consecutive titles in 1992 and 1993 away to Tenerife, then coached by another Real great, Jorge Valdano, handing the trophy to Barcelona on the final day.

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Zinedine Zidane

Michel stirred controversy in a radio interview last month when he declared: “I’m a much bigger Madrid fan than Valdano.”

However, Michel, who oversaw a surprise 2-0 win over Barca in April, has promised to treat the game like any other: “It’s my Madrid but also my Malaga. I have to go out to win.”

Barcelona host Eibar and coach Luis Enrique last month said his side’s hopes of stealing the league in the final match were as likely as pigs flying. In his last media appearance, though, he said Malaga had beaten Barca and could spring a surprise on Madrid too.

Real opened up a three-point lead at the top with a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo on Wednesday, returning to the league’s summit for the first time since April 23 when they lost to Barca.

They have been in rampant form since that defeat, hitting 20 goals in five games through 10 different scorers, demonstrating the devastating attacking power coach Zinedine Zidane, pictured, has at his disposal.

The Frenchman’s rotation policy was criticised early in the season after four straight draws but has paid off with Real hitting their peak in the run-in, having also reached the Champions League final in June against Juventus.

“We’re all playing as we are thanks to the work of Zidane, thanks to his rotations we can now win the double,” midfielder Isco said after a sensational display against Celta.

SERIE A

Record-chasing Juventus and in-form underdogs Crotone have different ideas of glory when they meet in Turin on Sunday in the penultimate round of the Italian Serie A season.

The Bianconeri beat Lazio 2-0 in Rome on Wednesday for a record of three straight Italian Cup triumphs and now seek an unprecedented sixth consecutive league title, to set a record of three back-to-back doubles.They sit four points clear of Roma, who last weekend delayed the Scudetto party by beating them 3-1, while third-place Napoli are a further point adrift. Newcomers Crotone dream of escaping the three-team drop zone and a second season in the top flight, having enjoyed five wins and two draws to move within one point of safety.

Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri looks to settle matters at home, then begin the run-up to the Champions League final set for June 3 against holders Real Madrid.

Juve might theoretically celebrate with a loss, depending on the results of Roma at Chievo and Napoli at home to Fiorentina tomorrow.

Crotone, meanwhile, hope for Sunday slip-ups from Empoli and Genoa.

Empoli are one point clear of danger when they host Atalanta as Genoa, sitting two points above Crotone, welcome Torino. Two of three Europa League places are already taken by Lazio and Atalanta, with sixth-placed AC Milan sitting one point above Fiorentina in the race for the third berth.

The Milanese Rossoneri welcome Bologna, while city rivals Inter Milan are four points adrift as they visit Lazio. Sassuolo v Cagliari and Udinese v Sampdoria complete the Sunday programme.

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