Barcelona manager Luis Enrique believes his team deserve to win "the best league in Europe" as they aim to clinch La Liga in a potentially thrilling climax to the Spanish season on Saturday.
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique believes his team deserve to win “the best league in Europe” as they aim to clinch La Liga in a potentially thrilling climax to the Spanish season on Saturday.
Although the champions are in pole position to retain the title, however, their old foes Real Madrid can cash in on any slip to grab the spoils — and history warns that it is eminently possible.
If leaders Barcelona win their final game of the season, as they should, at 16th-placed Granada, they will secure their 24th La Liga crown.
Yet Zinedine Zidane’s side are just one point behind and if they win at Deportivo La Coruna, 13th in the table, and Barca fail to beat Granada, Real will grab the title for the 33rd time.
The good news for Barcelona? They have never lost the title when going into the final round of matches. The bad news? Seven times, a team has leapfrogged the leaders in the final week to capture the Spanish championship.
That happened most recently in 1994 when leaders Valencia drew 0-0 at Deportivo, a result that allowed Barcelona to climb above them.
This year, though, Luis Enrique is confident his team will prevail despite having suffered a recent absent-minded spell in which they were dethroned as European champions and lost a nine-point lead at the summit of La Liga.
“We’re talking about the best league (La Liga) in Europe. It’s a tough league,” Luis Enrique said on Barcelona’s website.
“Maybe the last part didn’t go the way we wanted, but if we have to win the title in the last game, well then we’ll do it in the last game.
“Real have never been at the top of the standings on their own this season. With the number of weeks we’ve been on top and our play, I think we deserve it.”
Few could argue with that assertion, such has been the dazzling interplay between their free-scoring attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
They had appeared to be sailing majestically towards the title until an eyebrow-raising dip in form brought them just one point from four league games and they lost to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Yet they appear to have rediscovered their mojo, winning their last four league matches by a combined total of 21-0, and they hammered city rivals Espanyol 5-0 at home on Sunday to retain their slender lead.
If Barca lose on Saturday and Real draw, the Catalan side would still take the crown with a superior head-to-head record against Zidane’s team this season.
Having defeated Granada 4-0 in January courtesy of a Messi hat-trick, the trip to Andalucia should hold no fears for Luis Enrique but they will have to win should Deportivo fold against Real as they did against Barca last month in a 8-0 humiliation.
Despite the disappointment of failing to become the first team since AC Milan in 1990 to win the European Cup back-to-back, Barca still have the chance to clinch a domestic double as they take on Sevilla in the King’s Cup final in Madrid on May 22.