Shayon Harrison… from the first team of Tottenham to the second division in Romania

Shayon Harrison… from the first team of Tottenham to the second division in Romania
Shayon Harrison… from the first team of Tottenham to the second division in Romania

Barcelona, ​​the leaders, will have the opportunity to snatch its twenty-seventh title in the Spanish League four stages before the end if it beats its neighbor and host Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Sunday in the thirty-fourth round of the tournament, and may be crowned before that if the poles of Madrid, Atletico and Real, fail to win their confrontations against Elche and Getafe.

The victory will give Barcelona a lead that Atletico or Real Madrid cannot compensate for with four remaining matches, but the leaders’ quest for an early coronation will collide with a team fighting to stay in the first division.

Barcelona has 82 points, 13 points ahead of second-placed Atletico, and 14 points ahead of arch-rival Real Madrid, who fell to third place after losing 2-0 to host Real Sociedad in the previous stage.

Coach Xavi Hernandez’s men wish themselves to win the 27th title in the history of their club and the first since 2019 at the “RCDE Stadium”, but the Espanyol fans hope to disrupt this coronation.

Espanyol is fighting to maintain its presence among the greats; Where it currently occupies the nineteenth place, three points behind the safety zone, five stages before the end of the season.

Espanyol was relegated to the second division for the first time in 2020 after three decades in the Premier League, but it immediately returned to the elite league in the following year 2021.

Espanyol enters the meeting in good spirits; As it is the first team in the league to score a goal at the “Camp Nou” stadium this season when it forced Barcelona to a 1-1 draw on December 31 last in the fifteenth stage, and only Real Madrid succeeded in that since then, specifically on March 19. (March) last when he lost 1 – 2 in the twenty-sixth stage.

In the first-leg derby, veteran international striker Joselo (33 years) equalized for Espanyol from a penalty kick in the 73rd minute, after Barcelona took an early lead through defender Marcos Alonso in the seventh minute.

Joselu warned his teammates that despite the great difference between the two teams’ positions, derby matches are different.

He said, “In the first match, they were also strong, and they thought they would score five goals in our goal at Camp Nou, but we got a very positive result.”

The former Alaves and Newcastle striker added: “They have a great advantage over us at the present time, but in the end, the derby is a derby. There can be a better team and a worse one, but the two teams and their strengths are equal on the field.”

Espanyol hopes to take advantage of the ground and public factors to compensate for its harsh loss to its host Seville 2-3 in the last stage, after it was ahead 2-1.

Espanyol defender Leandro Cabrera insisted on the need to keep fighting and said: “There are games and points left and we will not give up.”

But among the clubs fighting to avoid relegation, Espanyol arguably have the toughest games left. In addition to facing Barcelona, ​​​​Atletico Madrid and Almeria will be hosted at home, in addition to visiting Rayo Vallecano and Valencia.

The last time Espanyol beat Barcelona in the league dates back to February 2009 at Camp Nou, when coach Luis Garcia was a player in his ranks.

And after a brilliant run from 2005 to 2019 when they won the Champions League four times in addition to ten titles in the Spanish League, Barcelona suffered on and off the field, and its financial problems were exacerbated by the “Covid-19” pandemic, which made it fail to renew the contract of its legendary Argentine striker Lionel. Messi, who left on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, but the arrival of coach Xavi, the former star of the team, in November 2021 revived their hopes.

Araujo proved to be the best alternative to Pique in Barcelona’s defense (Reuters)

Xavi built a team with a very strong defense, the core of which was Uruguayan Ronald Araujo, behind him the expert German goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, then the rising midfield duo Pedri and Gabi, and in front of them the Polish striker Robert Lewandowski.

Xavi realized that his plan to return Barcelona to the podium needed to make some adjustments to the “tiki-taka” style that characterizes the performance of the Catalan club, which was started by its former Dutch coach, the late Johan Cruyff, and mastered by Josep Guardiola, most notably strengthening the defense line that played the main role in removing rivals Real from Throne, after conceding only 11 goals in 33 stages this season.

Many believed that the departure of defense rock Gerard Pique would leave a big void in the back line of the Catalan team, but Araujo proved that the bet on him was successful, when the management decided to include him in the summer of 2018 from the Uruguayan Boston River in a deal amounting to only 1.7 million euros without bonuses.

After a volatile journey for the 24-year-old defender at Camp Nou, he struggled to adapt away from his home country, but he did not give up and showed his fighting personality to become the most important pillar in the heart of the defense after Pique’s retirement.

It is possible that Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets will participate in one of his last matches with the club, after he announced Wednesday that he will leave at the end of the season, meaning that the 34-year-old player, who participated in more than 700 matches with the Catalan giants, has five official matches remaining. Just.

On the other hand, the opportunity appears favorable for Atletico Madrid to achieve its fourth successive victory, and to cling to the second place that it snatched from its neighbor and arch-rival Real Madrid in the last stage, when it is a guest on Elche, who is in last place and the first to be relegated to the second division, also on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid achieved nine victories in its last ten matches, in which it suffered one loss, which was against Barcelona 0-1, and tied once, and it was in the derby against Real Madrid 1-1.

Atletico Madrid is well aware of the importance of the three points against Elche; Because it is the easiest match among the five remaining for him, as he will play with Osasuna, Espanyol, Real Sociedad and Villarreal.

Atletico Madrid may find itself third before its visit to Elche; Because the Royal Club hosts its neighbor Getafe tomorrow, Saturday.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti may resort to resting some of his basic elements, especially his Brazilian wing Vinicius Junior and his French captain and goal scorer Karim Benzema, in anticipation of the decisive summit against his host Manchester City next Wednesday in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final.

Real Madrid wasted 12 points out of 24 in its last eight matches, and suffered two disappointing defeats against its hosts Girona 2-4 and Real Sociedad 0-2, and therefore it will try to restore balance locally, and raise the morale of its players before their trip to Manchester.

For his part, Real Sociedad hopes to continue its awakening and achieve its third successive victory in order to consolidate the final fourth place that qualifies for the Champions League competition next season, when it hosts Girona tomorrow.

Tomorrow Osasuna will also play with Almeria, Villarreal with Athletic Bilbao, Sunday Celta Vigo with Valencia, Valladolid with Seville, and the stage ends Monday with the Real Betis match with Rayo Vallecano.