Entering the final stretch and heading into Week 38, the 2013-14 La Liga title is set to come down to one final game.
Barcelona were held to a scoreless draw at Elche, which gave Atletico Madrid the opportunity to effectively win the title with a victory at home versus Malaga. Instead, Atletico couldn't take advantage, which sets up a final-weekend duel with Barcelona in Matchday 38 to decide the title.
Bleacher Report UK summed up the looming match:
So that's that. La Liga will be settled between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona next week. Game on. pic.twitter.com/uamBI1ipre— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) May 11, 2014
If Atletico hold out to a draw, they will win the title on a higher points total. A Barcelona victory would tie them in points with Atletico and give them the championship on a superior goal differential.
Real Madrid could have kept in it with three points over Week 37, but a 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo ended their title hopes as they look forward to a Champions League final with Atletico later in May.
Seven simultaneous games over Sunday's slate helped to clear up the title picture heading into the final weekend. Let's break down all of the results and look forward to what it means for a now decisive Week 38 slate.
Note: La Liga table information courtesy of ESPN FC
A stunning slate of seven games all happening at once Sunday figured to possibly decide the title, but instead, chaos ensued.
Atletico Madrid entered halftime tied 0-0 against Malaga, and despite Barcelona's scoreless result at half setting Atletico up for a potential title win with a victory, they couldn't take advantage early on.
Then, the wheels fell off.
Malaga went up 1-0 in the 64th minute off Samuel's goal, and suddenly Atletico were looking square in the face of a two-game losing streak heading into the final weekend.
Atletico were soon saved at home, however, as Toby Alderweireld put the two clubs level just nine minutes later, as ESPN FC noted:
ATLETICOOOOOOO!!!!!!! The Calderon erupts as Toby Alderweireld gets his first La Liga goal. What a time for it. 1-1, 74'.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 11, 2014
The equalizer proved to be enough to get Atletico one point, and things set up favorably for them in the final minutes when Malaga's Marcos Angeleri was sent off in the 88th minute.
That gave Atletico the space to push for a late winner one after another, and that gave them a few great late chances—including a brilliant save on Adrian from Malaga goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero to preserve the away side's point:
WHAT A SAVE! Willy denies Adrian from scoring a fantastic title winning goal with a diving save. What drama!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 11, 2014
But after a late push, Atletico's performance Sunday wasn't quite enough to give them their first league title since 1995-96—yet.
Failing to get all three points at home meant Barcelona could keep their title hopes alive with any sort of result Sunday.
Barcelona couldn't get a goal on the road at Elche, but the tied scoreline gave La Blaugrana a crucial point that kept them just three points of Atletico. That means that if Barcelona win against Atletico next weekend, a favorable goal differential will give them the La Liga title.
Meanwhile, both teams failing to get a victory over the weekend meant Real Madrid could re-emerge as in play for the title with three points on the road at Celta Vigo.
And if there was any doubt before that this season isn't all about the Champions League and their looming final, there shouldn't be anymore.
Real Madrid came out with an uninspiring 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo, with Charles scoring in both the 43rd and 62nd minutes to preserve victory for the home underdogs, as the Real Madrid Twitter reported:
With Los Blancos bowing out of the title picture, the only thing that stands between Atletico and ending their near 20-year title drought is one final match—and it's only fitting who it comes against.
Barcelona have struggled mightily this season, especially down the stretch. But the window is still open for them to repeat at champions, if Lionel Messi can get it together and muster up enough goals to hold off a hungry Atletico team.
Playing at home will suit Barcelona well, as they should be able to set up their dominating possession game and force the visitors into a defensive stance. Just as well, that could open things up for Atletico's dangerous counter attack led by Diego Costa.