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Treble in sight for Barcelona

The finishing line is in sight for record-breaking Barcelona and by this time next week the Catalan giants could be two-thirds of their way to completing an historic trophy treble.

Barcelona have been virtually unstoppable this season but until now they have not had the chance to turn that success into silverware. However, that is about to change as this weekend they could have their first opportunity to win the Primera Liga title if results go their way, while next Wednesday they take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.

And if all goes to plan for Pep Guardiola’s side over the coming days, they will then only need to beat Manchester United in the Champions League final later this month to become the first Spanish side to win the treble of league, cup and European Cup.

“It is a dream. I did not expect this season would be so good,” said Guardiola after his side netted a dramatic late equaliser to knock Chelsea out of the Champions League semi-finals this week.

That result capped a remarkable few days for Barca, which started with their 6-2 thrashing of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last Saturday – a win which means Guardiola’s side could clinch the title this weekend.

For that to happen, Barca must beat Villarreal at home on Sunday and hope second-placed Madrid, who with four games remaining are seven points behind but also have a worse head-to-head record against Barca should the two finish level, fail to beat Valencia 24 hours previously.

Madrid’s hopes of claiming a third successive title now look over but if they are to relinquish their crown, they will be determined to go down fighting.

“It is our duty to win our last four games,” said Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain, whose side had taken 52 from a possible 54 points prior to last weekend’s humiliation. “It’s tough when you’ve gone on such a great run and the other team doesn’t make mistakes, but we have to move on.”

Neither Villarreal nor Valencia will be giving any hand-outs to the top two this weekend though as they have important goals of their own to achieve.

Cash-strapped Valencia hold the fourth and final Champions League spot, but their neighbours Villarreal and Atletico Madrid are just a point behind.

Fifth-placed Atletico have won four of their last five matches, but they face a red-hot Espanyol side this week and it remains to be seen what sort of reception the Rojiblancos will get from their own fans at the Vicente Calderon.

The Atletico supporters have vented their frustration on the team and board during recent home matches following some abject performances, but winger Simao Sabrosa is hopeful everyone will be pulling in the same direction on Sunday.

“We’ve won two successive games now and I’m sure that the public will receive us well,” he said. “We (still) have to face Valencia and we have to earn these three points. We need the support of the fans because it’s very important for us.”

Sevilla had looked intent on throwing away third spot as they lost four on the trot, but last weekend’s 2-0 win at Villarreal has got them back on track and they host Real Mallorca this weekend boasting a four-point gap over Valencia.

At the other end of the table, there are at least eight teams still in deep relegation trouble with Racing Santander in 13th only five points above the bottom three ahead of their clash with Malaga.

There is a huge match at Getafe, where Michel’s 17th-placed side host 16th-placed Osasuna, while elsewhere bottom club Numancia go to Real Valladolid, Recreativo Huelva host Deportivo La Coruna, Real Betis travel to Athletic Bilbao and Sporting Gijon are at Almeria.

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