Real carry double dreams into Sevilla game

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema lifts team-mate Sergio Ramos off his feet as they celebrate their side's goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-final second leg. Isco grabbed the away goal as Real progressed 4-2 on aggregate.
Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema lifts team-mate Sergio Ramos off his feet as they celebrate their side's goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-final second leg. Isco grabbed the away goal as Real progressed 4-2 on aggregate.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Sampaoli's side are their toughest league opponents left

MADRID • Real Madrid, still crowing from reaching a third Champions League final in four years, will turn their focus to winning their first LaLiga title since 2012 when they play Sevilla in their final home game of the season tomorrow.

Real's Champions League triumphs in 2014 and last year have distracted from rivals Barcelona's creeping domination in the domestic league, with the Catalan side winning five of the last seven titles.

Even Atletico Madrid, who Zinedine Zidane's side saw off for the fourth consecutive year on the European stage on Wednesday with a 4-2 aggregate victory, have won the title more recently than Real. Diego Simeone's men were champions in 2014.

In a nail-biting end to the LaLiga campaign, Real and Barcelona are locked on 84 points at the top of the table. While Barca have a superior head-to-head record, Real have a game in hand. Real face Celta Vigo next week before their final fixture against Malaga.

Seven points out of a maximum nine will be enough to end Real's five-year run without winning the domestic title.

"Now we have to go for the league title, we really want to win it, and then we'll have time to think about the final in Cardiff," said Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Even though they have a record 32 Spanish top-flight crowns and 11 European Cups/Champions League titles, Real have often struggled to combine their domestic and European campaigns. They last achieved the double in 1958.

Sevilla look like Real's most difficult opponents in their three remaining games, though Jorge Sampaoli's team are far from the swashbuckling side who ended Real's 40-game unbeaten run in January.

Sevilla have won just three of their last 12 games, stumbling towards fourth place and the final Champions League berth.

Sampaoli is expected to leave the club at the end of the season to take up the vacant Argentina job.

Champions Barcelona make the long journey to the Canary Islands to face a Las Palmas side who are also struggling for form, having lost seven of their last 10 games. Luis Enrique's men thrashed Las Palmas 5-0 in January.

Barca's hopes of a third successive title depend on Real slipping up, but forward Neymar said his side were only focusing on their games.

"We can't be thinking about Madrid, we can only think about ourselves," the Brazilian told BeIN Sports. "If we do what we have to, I think we can become champions.

"If we don't give everything then we won't win our games."

REUTERS

LAS PALMAS V BARCELONA

StarHub Ch112/205 & 76.25MHz, Monday, 2am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Real carry double dreams into Sevilla game'. Print Edition | Subscribe