Saturday, June 16, 2007

LA LIGA - finale

MADRID, June 15, 2007 (AFP) - Real Madrid will clinch La Liga for a record 30th time if they beat Real Mallorca on Sunday, which would give departing David Beckham something to show for his four years in the Spanish capital.

"It makes me sad to be leaving Real Madrid. I have not won anything during my four years here but I hope that will change on Sunday, however I don't regret my decision to leave," said the 32-year-old on Thursday.

The mathematics are simple even though Real could easily end the season on the same number of points as their bitter rivals and reigning champions Barcelona.

Having beaten Barca in the Santiago Bernabeu and then memorabley drawn 3-3 in the Catalan club's Nou Camp this season, Real have the advantage should there be a tie for the championship for the first time since 1994.

However, Mallorca are unlikely to give Real the title on a plate despite having nothing to play for other than pride.

They showed that they want to finish the season on a high note by holding third-placed Sevilla to a 0-0 draw last Saturday, a result which effectively ended the UEFA Cup winners' title hopes.

"Mallorca haven't hidden the fact that they want to get one over on us and they aren't going to give us any free gifts. It's worthwhile being prudent and humble about the outcome," commented Real club captain Raul Gonzalez earlier this week.

"We are going to the Bernabeu to win or draw, and even if we lose then we are going to go down with dignity," added Mallorca defender Sergio Ballasteros.

The game will be the last one in a Real jersey for fan's favourites Beckham and also Roberto Carlos, both of whom will make possibly the last move of their illustrious careers.

The former England captain joins LA Galaxy almost immediately while Roberto Carlos has signed for Turkish club Fenerbahce after 11 seasons with Real.

Unlike Beckham, Roberto Carlos has already won a myriad of honours with Real including three Champions League crowns.

"But this title will be one of the sweetest," said the Brazilian wing back earlier this week.

"If we do win the title it will be proof of how hard we've worked (over the second half of the season) but Mallorca do have a habit of beating us as well," added Roberto Carlos.

Barcelona travel the short distance down the Mediterranean coast to try to beat relegated bottom club Gimnastic Tarragona and then keep their fingers crossed that Real slip up.

"We know our chances (of winning the league) are minimal. I just hope Mallorca show that great professionals they are," said Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Sevilla are two points behind the leading pair and theoretically could still lift their first title since 1946 but they know that their options are even limited than Barcelona.

They could scarcely have picked a more difficult opponent on Sunday as Villarreal is still bidding to qualify for the UEFA Cup and have put together a run of seven consecutive wins.

"There still remains one weekend left for us to score a goal with our hands like Barcelona and Real," said Sevilla midfielder Enzo Maresca, with scarcely-veiled sarcasm about the fact that referees have allowed some dubious goals by their two rivals in recent weeks.

At the other end of the table, four teams are still trying to avoid filling the two vacant slots in Spanish second division next season.

Real Sociedad are second from bottom and have to win at Valencia and then rely on the rest of the results falling in their favour if they are to avoid dropping out of the top flight of Spanish football after 40 years.

Celta Vigo play host to Racing Santander and have one point to catch up on fellow strugglers Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis, who are at home to Levante and away to Racing Santander respectively, if they are to avoid going down.

Sunday (Kick off in GMT)

Athletic Bilbao v Levante (1500)

Celta Vigo v Getafe (1500)

Espanyol v Deportivo La Coruna (1500)

Racing Santander v Real Betis (1500)

Valencia v Real Sociedad (1500)

Gimnastic Tarragona v Barcelona (1900)

Osasuna v Atletico Madrid (1900)

Real Madrid v Real Mallorca (1900)

Recreativo Huelva v Real Zaragoza (1900)

Sevilla v Villarreal (1900)

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