Luis Suarez praised the character shown by Atletico Madrid to dig deep and clinch a dramatic 2-1 win over Osasuna that keeps them top of LaLiga.

Atleti's hopes of landing a first top-flight title in seven years seemed to be dealt a blow in Sunday's clash at the Wanda Metropolitano when Ante Budimir put mid-table Osasuna in front.

It was the Croatia international's seventh headed goal of the season – no player in LaLiga has more – but Diego Simeone's side turned the game around in the final eight minutes.

Substitute Renan Lodi fired in an equaliser and Suarez, who had earlier hit the post and missed a couple of other good chances, guided in a dramatic late winner.

The win ensures Simeone's side head to Real Valladolid on the final day of the season only needing to match Real Madrid's result against Villarreal to finish top.

Suarez's strike came from his seventh shot of the game and the Uruguay international admitted his side were made to suffer for their 25th win of the campaign.

"These are moments of happiness, we did not deserve to suffer as much as we suffered," he told Movistar. 

"We missed many chances – me in particular. But to win the league you have to suffer, as today showed. I knew we would suffer here, but not that much.

"The effort and sacrifice of the team was great, with many people working so that the club can achieve its objectives. Now we have a chance to rest and prepare for the next game."

Had Suarez not found a way through late on – ending a five-game scoreless run in the process – Atleti would have entered the final matchday second to Madrid in the table.

The ex-Barcelona striker has now earned 19 points for Atletico with his 20 goals – only Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri has helped his team to more points in LaLiga this term.

"Luis has not scored for a bit, but he's always been involved," Simeone said at his post-match news conference. "He gives us leadership – who better than him to win the game.

"During the drinks break near the end, I told the players we had to look for the draw. The goal soon arrived and then Suarez showed why he is an important player."

Atletico have spent 29 matchdays at the top of LaLiga, despite some inconsistent results since the end of January, and are now one game from winning the title.

"We will prepare for the last game with the same enthusiasm to when I arrived at this club in 2011," Simeone said. "The team will be fierce. I hope the fans will be proud of us.

"We chose this profession trying to do the best we can to reach this moment. You have to prepare in the best way. I don't understand any other way."

Santi Mina scored twice as Barcelona's slim hopes of winning this season's LaLiga title ended after a 2-1 defeat to Celta Vigo at Camp Nou.

The Blaugrana entered the penultimate matchday of the season in third, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two shy of second-placed Real Madrid.

But Atleti and Madrid both won, meaning Barca's challenge would have concluded early even if they had protected the lead forged by Lionel Messi.

As it was, Mina had the visitors level seven minutes before the break and then, after Clement Lenglet was sent off for a second booking, the Celta forward lashed in an 89th-minute winner.

It had all started so well for Barca, with Messi predictably at the heart of their best work up to and including his 28th-minute header.

Sergio Busquets' deep cross from the left found Messi beyond the Celta defence to nod past Ivan Villar, who had repelled the hosts' best chance to that point when he blocked from Antoine Griezmann.

But Celta levelled with their first shot, a smart Mina finish from 20 yards that wrongfooted Marc-Andre ter Stegen, apparently unsighted behind Gerard Pique.

Although that goal did not initially alter the pattern of play, Barca became increasingly impatient as they struggled to forge clear-cut openings and left gaps at the back.

A far more impressive contribution from Ter Stegen saw the goalkeeper dive to his right to deny Denis Suarez, while he tipped away an awkward free-kick moments after Lenglet earned his second card seven minutes from time for a rash challenge on Kevin Vazquez.

There was another stop from Suarez, too, and those saves might have provided a platform for a Barca winner, only for Martin Braithwaite to miss the target from close range.

The decisive goal instead arrived at the other end, with Ter Stegen caught under Augusto Solari's cross, which bounced back out off the post for Mina to blast into the net.

Luis Suarez scored an 88th-minute winner to earn Atletico Madrid a dramatic 2-1 comeback win over Osasuna that keeps their LaLiga title hopes in their own hands heading into the final matchday.

Their dreams of a first title since the 2013-14 season appeared to have suffered a damaging blow 15 minutes from full-time when Ante Budimir struck completely against the run of play in Sunday's clash at Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Simeone's side had earlier wasted a string of opportunities, twice hit the post and had strikes from Stefan Savic and Yannick Carrasco ruled out, though they dug deep to turn the game around in the final eight minutes.

Substitute Renan Lodi equalised and Suarez atoned for some earlier misses by firing in a winner for Atleti, the result moving them two points above Real Madrid – the only side that can now catch them – with one game left in the season.

Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid are entering the "Luis Suarez zone" as they edge closer to securing a first LaLiga title since the 2013-14 season.

Atleti hold a two-point advantage over city rivals and reigning champions Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga, and face Osasuna in their penultimate game of the season at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

Should they claim three points against Jagoba Arrasate's side and Los Blancos fail to beat Athletic Bilbao, in a game which kicks off at the same time, Atletico will be crowned champions with a game remaining.

Leading the charge up front will be Uruguay international Suarez, who has scored 19 goals in his first season at the club since joining from Barcelona.

Suarez, 34, won four LaLiga titles during his time at Barca and Simeone is expecting him to use all that experience to ensure Atleti do not slip up in their final two games.

"As for Luis, we have entered the Suarez zone," Simeone told a news conference.

"It is an ideal moment for a footballer like him to find and solve game situations that the team will need. He is used to games like this and has the experience to do it."

Atleti are red-hot favourites to beat Osasuna, who have lost eight of their last 10 away games against Los Rojiblancos.

Despite this, Simeone is expecting a tough game and wants maximum focus from his side, who are aiming to score two or more goals in four consecutive home league games for the first time since April 2016.

"In football you cannot choose a rival," Simeone added. "There are no small enemies. Football is day to day and you have to play according to the game that you play.

"We continue in the same way as always. We are dealing with Osasuna, a team that has competed very well historically and will do so tomorrow as well. 

"Osasuna is changing. Lately he [Arrasate] uses 4-3-3 more, although he may return to 4-4-2 that has been in the essence of his game.

"He works much more across the game, with fast people on the outside, with people from the second row to accompany his striker and a very strong collective work.

"We seek to play a good game, take it to where we can hurt Osasuna and know that the rival will come to play with enthusiasm."

Luis Suarez was determined to prove his doubters wrong after getting the chance to continue playing at the highest level with Atletico Madrid.

Suarez left Barcelona after a 2019-20 season that saw the Spanish giants finish without a trophy. Having lost out to Real Madrid in a tight title race, hopes of Champions League glory were emphatically ended at the quarter-final stage by Bayern Munich.

The Uruguay striker had scored 21 goals in all competitions yet was deemed surplus to requirements at Camp Nou, allowed to leave on the cheap as he remained within LaLiga at Atleti.

Barca have watched on as their former player has scored 19 league goals to help Diego Simeone's squad push to be crowned Spanish champions - they top the table by two points with two games remaining, the first of which is at home to Osasuna on Sunday.

For Suarez, the desire to succeed following his switch to the capital was fuelled by those who had declared him to be in a state of decline.

"You like a challenge. And coming here was a very big challenge for me for many things," he said in an interview for Club del Deportista magazine.

"Last year I received criticism and they said that I was not here to compete for important things, or that at Barcelona I could not compete at a high level.

"That will generate a challenge to an individual, you want to continue to demonstrate that you can do something at the elite level of football, something I've been demonstrating as the kind of player I am for many years.

"I experienced it as a great challenge and with great enthusiasm. I'm not sorry at all, on the contrary, excited and eager to continue demonstrating."

Suarez also revealed his future plans at international level as he intends to finish his Uruguay career after next year's World Cup in Qatar.

The 34-year-old is his country's all-time leading scorer and helped them win the 2011 Copa America, a year after a fourth-place finish at the World Cup in South Africa.

"My wish is to be able to play the World Cup in Qatar and afterwards one must realise that the time has come," the former Ajax and Liverpool forward said.

"First by age and then by the young people who come after, so that they have the possibility. When the time comes I will make the appropriate decision, although assuming that costs a player a lot, but I have been working on it for a long time."

The long-term futures of Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho are set to become clearer soon.

Lingard has impressed on loan from Manchester United at West Ham, reviving his career as David Moyes' side push to secure European football for next season.

England international Sancho, meanwhile, has dazzled since moving to Germany - but is he now ready to return home?

 

TOP STORY - LINGARD AND SANCHO TO SWAP PLACES

The Sun reports that Manchester United will offer Jesse Lingard to Borussia Dortmund as part of a swap deal for Jadon Sancho.

United chased Sancho last year but were unable to land the winger due to Dortmund's asking price.

It is understood the value held by the Bundesliga club is around £100million (€116m), so Lingard's inclusion may help drive that down and seal a deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Times claims that Manchester City have formalised the top four players on their off-season shopping list in forwards Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, Lautaro Martinez and Andre Silva.

- Manchester United are preparing a bid for Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente worth £68m (€79m), reports the Mirror.

- Off-contract Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand is attracting interest from Leicester City, claims the Leicester Mercury.

- Per Marca, Barcelona have an agreement in place to sign Memphis Depay, who is soon to be out of contract at Lyon. The Dutch forward is set to be reunited with Ronald Koeman at Camp Nou.

Diego Simeone said he knew Atletico Madrid had to win after the LaLiga leaders moved a step closer to the title after defeating Real Sociedad.

After Barcelona dropped points, Atletico could be within one victory of claiming their second league crown of Simeone's tenure following Wednesday's 2-1 win over Sociedad.

Yannick Carrasco and Angel Correa struck in the space of 12 first-half minutes to give Atletico a 2-0 lead inside half an hour in the Spanish capital midweek.

Carrasco has been involved in 14 LaLiga goals this season (six goals and eight assists), equalling his record in a same campaign in the competition (14 in 2016-17 – 10 goals, four assists).

La Real set up a grandstand finish through Igor Zubeldia but Atletico held on to move four points clear atop the table with two rounds remaining, though city rivals Real Madrid could move back within two by beating Granada on Thursday.

"We knew that we had to win," Atletico head coach Simeone told reporters. "We were ahead in the game against a team that were doing things well, especially away from home.

"The first half was pretty good, we took a 2-0 lead, we had enough chances to have a bigger advantage. Up until the 25th minute of the second half the game was open and at the end of the season winning is very important and then their goal happened as did those last few minutes.

"We were left with the feeling that we suffered in those last few minutes because of Sociedad's desire to try and get a draw."

This is the third time in history Atleti have reached 80 or more points after 36 games played in LaLiga (assuming three points per victory) after 2013-14 (88) and 2015-16 (85).

Atletico are unbeaten in their last 19 matches played on a Wednesday in LaLiga (W15 D4) since a defeat to Madrid in April 2012 (1-4).

"We need to rest. Clearly we're all in a season that has been very tough and that will end up being very tough indeed because of everything that has happened to us as a society," added Simeone. "We started too fast and you all know that and all teams have had to fight against that. We're no exception.

"We have two games ahead and we'll face them in the same way we have the others, game after game, knowing that on Sunday it will be a very important match for us, knowing it will be a very important game for what's to come in LaLiga."

Koke made his 500th appearance for Atleti in all competitions, becoming the second player to reach this figure in the history of the club after Adelardo Rodriguez (550).

"We have two games left, that's a whole world," Koke said. "The league is really tight these last five games, we've always said it. Everyone is dropping points, these games are finals for us, we won this one and on Sunday and we have another final we want to win.

"We're Atleti, if we weren't suffering, it wouldn't be us. Thanks to the fans who came here outside [the stadium] and those who can't. You need your fans to make that extra effort as we did in the last 10 minutes, we could hear them outside. We're grateful."

Atletico Madrid could be within one win of clinching their second LaLiga title of Diego Simeone's tenure after they beat Real Sociedad 2-1 in a gripping tussle on Wednesday.

With Barcelona dropping points this week, but fourth-placed Sevilla winning, Atleti responded with a performance worthy of champions at Wanda Metropolitano, though it came with a nervy finish.

Yannick Carrasco and Angel Correa got the goals to put them in control, striking in the space of 12 first-half minutes.

But Atleti failed to take the chances to make the scoreline more comfortable and, after Jan Oblak and the upright came to their rescue, La Real set up a grandstand finish through Igor Zubeldia.

Atleti ultimately hung on, however, meaning they will settle a dramatic title race in their favour by defeating Osasuna next time out, should Real Madrid fail to beat Granada on Thursday.

Luis Suarez curled just wide and Marcos Llorente was denied by Alex Remiro as Atleti started as they meant to go on, with the pressure telling in the 16th minute.

Llorente was the provider with a weighted cross to the back post where Carrasco, having beat La Real's offside trap, controlled it and prodded a finish through Remiro's legs.

It was 2-0 12 minutes later when Suarez played in Correa, who coolly found the bottom-left corner.

With little to lose, La Real hit back, forcing Oblak into two brilliant saves, the second a fingertip onto the post to deny Alexander Isak.

Wasteful finishing plagued Atleti's second-half display, with Carrasco and Suarez fortunate not to be made to pay for poor misses when Portu crashed an effort against the post, with Stefan Savic making a heroic block.

Atleti were denied a fifth clean sheet in the space of six games when Zubeldia bundled in from a corner with seven minutes remaining, yet Simeone's men had the grit to hold on and put the title within reach.

Miralem Pjanic has been used sparingly at Barcelona since his off-season move from Juventus last year and may be on the move again soon.

The Bosnian was a regular for Juventus during four title-winning Serie A seasons prior to the switch.

With Barca's LaLiga title challenge faltering, the club are eager to mix things up in the next transfer window.

 

TOP STORY - BARCELONA PLOT SWAP DEAL WITH CHELSEA

Barcelona are looking to complete a swap deal with Chelsea whereby Pjanic and Jorginho would be exchanged, claims Sport.

Barca head coach Ronald Koeman is behind the move as he tries to land Jorginho and is willing to use the out-of-favour Pjanic to facilitate the deal.

Sport also claims that if Chelsea are not interested, the Catalans may suggest a trade with Inter involving Pjanic and an unnamed Nerazzurri player.

 

ROUND-UP

Roma have joined the list of clubs keen on Brighton and Hove Albion's Ben White, according to The Sun, with Jose Mourinho's Premier League knowledge playing a part. Manchester United and Arsenal are also said to be keen on White.

- The Telegraph claims Arsenal are interested in making a move to sign Moussa Dembele, who has had underwhelming loan spell at Atletico Madrid from Lyon.

Eric Garcia is on his way to Barcelona, according to Goal, who reports they have reached an agreement to sign him. The defender's contract is up at the end of the season.

- Chelsea's veteran forward Olivier Giroud has attracted interest from Inter and Lazio, claims Calciomercato.

- Calciomercato also reports Milan are tracking Tottenham full-back Serge Aurier.

Barcelona assistant boss Alfred Schreuder insisted his side can still win La Liga despite missing the chance to leapfrog leaders Atletico Madrid.

The two sides played out a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou on Saturday that keeps Atleti two points ahead at the summit with three games of the season remaining.

However, the result opens the door for Real Madrid, whose head-to-head record means they could go top with a win over Sevilla on Sunday.

Schreuder, who took on the post-game media duties as a result of Ronald Koeman's two-match touchline ban, is confident Barca can still be champions.

He said: "We know that now we have to wait for the results of other games. 

"Let's see what Madrid does with Sevilla. We know that we depend on others, but it is still possible to win La Liga. 

"We are where we wanted to be three months ago."

Barcelona dominated possession but struggled to create too many clear chances against a typically obstinate Atletico backline.

Schreuder was not surprised by the pattern of the game but believes the hosts had enough opportunities to claim all three points, including a late Ousmane Dembele header that went over.

"We knew it would be a very difficult game, without a doubt," he continued.

"We had a good chance from Leo [Lionel Messi] in the first half, another from Dembele in the second. We had the ball. We knew that Atletico would be very defensive. 

"Obviously there is always an opportunity for the rival. Now we have to focus on the next game. 

"We wanted to win, but we are still in this position. We are two points behind Atletico."

Schreuder also provided an injury update on Sergio Busquets, who left the field after just over half an hour after suffering a blow to the face.

The Barca assistant said on the midfielder: "I just spoke with him and I think he's fine, but we have to wait for the results of the tests they are doing in the hospital.

"We had to reorganise the midfield. He always gives us confidence there and we have lost the organisation a bit."

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone insists he will not be watching Real Madrid's crunch LaLiga game against Sevilla on Sunday.

Atleti's 0-0 draw with fellow title hopefuls Barcelona on Saturday opened the door for Los Blancos, who can usurp their Madrid neighbours at the top of the table with victory in their game in hand.

A win would lift them level on points, but they would be first courtesy of their superior head-to-head record this season.

Atleti dominated the opening 45 minutes at Camp Nou but they could not find a way past Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Los Rojiblancos had six shots on target in the first half – the most by an opposing team before half-time against Barca this season in all competitions.

Simeone said he has little interest in watching Sunday's clash at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, instead preferring to spend time with his family ahead of Wednesday's visit of Real Sociedad.

"I don't think I will watch it," he told a media conference. "I'm not watching the games; I don't have a good time and I prefer not to watch them. 

"It will not change much if I see it. I will be with the family having dinner and preparing on Monday for a good game against Real."

The result means Simeone has overseen more away games without a win against Barca in LaLiga than against any other side in the competition, drawing four and losing five of his matches in charge of Atleti at Camp Nou. 

Despite the extension of that unwanted run, Simeone was pleased with his players' efforts. 

"We came to Barcelona to play a game with determination and collective work, and the game that we imagined happened," he added.

"We have had a great first half. The second half was more even. The team did a great job and we are continuing on the path we are on, which is to take things game by game.

"The only thing I asked the players is to play, that they are themselves and they manage to play. And they absolutely did. 

"That fills me with joy because success is in being able to compete every year where we are."

After also drawing a blank in the previous meeting of the teams, Barca have failed to score against Atleti in the same campaign for the first time since 1989-90, back when the legendary Johan Cruyff was at the helm.

Jan Oblak saw it approaching like a heat-seeking missile and witnessed everyone in red and white clearing a path.

But it was only when Oblak tipped the narrative wide of his left-hand post that you sensed this would be Atletico Madrid's day, and perhaps it will still be their season.

On the day that Neymar ruled out a return to Barcelona by signing a new Paris Saint-Germain contract, the stage was set at Camp Nou for Lionel Messi, and my word he almost scored an unforgettable goal.

Oblak, however, had other ideas, and unlike his team-mates he found a way to defy the Barcelona captain without resorting to brazenly foul means.

It would have been one for the Messi showreel, a sensational charge infield from the right flank taking him at lightning speed through the massed ranks of the visitors and to the edge of the penalty area, before the Barca forward ripped a shot that was arrowing into the corner.

Oblak sprung into action and plunged to his left, Atletico indebted to their last line of defence. The Slovenian is the wall that few find cracks in, the player as vital to their success as anyone, the glovesman who has kept clean sheets in both LaLiga clashes with Barcelona this season and 18 shutouts in 35 league games so far.

In front of him, Atletico's players know their roles, even if in that one instance they could not get close to Messi.

Typically here, the tactic was to halt Messi by fair means or foul. Given he has scored a remarkable 21 league goals already in 2021, that seemed a reasonable ploy from Diego Simeone's troops.

Saul Niguez, Felipe and Koke were each booked for identikit fouls on the 33-year-old, recognising he was in full stride and rationalising that was an unhealthy state of affairs for Atletico. Geoffrey Kondogbia tripped Messi on the edge of the box in the 89th minute, but there would be no dramatic finale, the assailed Argentinian ripping a free-kick wide of the top left corner.

So it finished nil-nil and that might be interpreted as the dream outcome for Real Madrid, who sit third for now but would join Atletico on 77 points should they defeat fourth-placed Sevilla on Sunday.

For Barcelona, they are counting on their title rivals falling at the last now, with three rounds remaining. They would have gone top with a win here, but instead remain two points shy of Atletico.

Yannick Carrasco and Marcos Llorente threatened in the first half for Atletico at Camp Nou, and the visitors had an abundance of the ball early in the second period too, but the chance of the game was probably the one that Barcelona substitute Ousmane Dembele headed over in the 85th minute, getting on the end of a cross that left-back Jordi Alba stood up to the far post but sending his effort far too high.

When the big chances fall to Dembele and Antoine Griezmann, playing like a competition winner against his former club here at times, there are days when that can spell terrible trouble for Barcelona.

Griezmann has now failed to score in the 12 LaLiga matches he has played against Atletico.

How Messi must wish he still had Luis Suarez by his side rather than on the opposing team.

Suarez, who was hurried out of Barcelona and welcomed with open arms by Atletico last September, was welcomed back to his old stamping ground with a big-screen video montage of some of his finest moments for the club.

He had a game-high four shots, three of which hit the target, and generally made a jolly old nuisance of himself without looking at his sharpest.

Messi was devastated to lose Suarez last year, but he has put that dismay behind him in recent months, with coach Ronald Koeman coaxing the best out of his talisman.

Barcelona now have 50 points from 20 LaLiga games in 2021, but their chaotic start to the season is catching up with them again. Too many points were dropped then, and for Barcelona to snatch the title this felt like a must-win game.

Koeman had an eagle's eye view, sitting high in the stands as he completed his touchline ban, unable to impose his presence and forced to settle for stalemate.

Like Oblak against the Messi missile, perhaps he saw it coming.

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid played out a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou on Saturday, handing Real Madrid the advantage in the race for LaLiga.

Atleti remain top – two points clear of nearest rivals Barca – but Los Blancos will usurp them if they beat fourth-placed Sevilla on Sunday courtesy of a better head-to-head record against Diego Simeone's side.

Despite dominating the first half, Atleti could not find a way past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the German making six saves before the interval.

Barca improved after the break, but Ronald Koeman's team ultimately fell short of finding a winner that would have moved them to the summit.

Atleti, who saw Thomas Lemar forced off due to injury early on, almost went ahead shortly before the midway point of the first half, Angel Correa denied what looked set to be a certain goal by a superb last-ditch block by Clement Lenglet.

Barca lost Sergio Busquets in the 32nd minute after a clash of heads with Stefan Savic, before Ter Stegen kept out Marcos Llorente, Luis Suarez and Yannick Carrasco in quick succession.

Lionel Messi was denied a memorable goal shortly before the interval, Jan Oblak wonderfully tipping the Argentina international's effort away after he had waltzed past a host of Atleti players.

Simeone's visitors should have made their first-half dominance count on the stroke of half-time, yet Felipe blazed over from 10 yards after being picked out by Llorente.

The hosts did most of the pressing at the start of the second period, Oblak forced to paw away a Messi free-kick after 66 minutes.

Ronald Araujo had a header ruled out for offside soon after, while fellow substitute Ousmane Dembele nodded over from a glorious position five minutes from full-time as Barca threatened to claim all three points.

Atleti did not look like snatching a goal in the closing stages as their winless run at Camp Nou was extended to a whopping 15 games.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus have described warnings from UEFA as "intolerable" and "unacceptable" as the three clubs continue to back a breakaway European Super League.

Spain's biggest two clubs and Italian outfit Juve are the only three remaining of the 12 European giants who signed up for the controversial project, with all others having withdrawn just days after the competition was announced last month.

UEFA on Friday stated that Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea, Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid would not face Champions League or Europa League bans after pulling out of the proposed Super League.

The governing body warned that the three remaining rebel clubs could be sanctioned due to their unwavering stance.

UEFA stated: "UEFA has reserved all rights to take whatever action it deems appropriate against those clubs that have so far refused to renounce the so-called 'Super League'. The matter will promptly be referred to the competent UEFA disciplinary bodies."

Barca, Madrid and Juve released a joint statement on Saturday to make it clear they are not happy with UEFA's actions.

The statement said: "The founding clubs have suffered, and continue to suffer, unacceptable third-party pressures, threats, and offenses to abandon the project and therefore desist from their right and duty to provide solutions to the football ecosystem via concrete proposals and constructive dialogue.

"This is intolerable under the rule of law and tribunals have already ruled in favour of the Super League proposal, ordering FIFA and UEFA to, either directly or through their affiliated bodies, refrain from taking any action which may hinder this initiative in any way while court proceedings are pending."

The three clubs defended the Super League proposal by stating that "structural reforms are vital to ensure our sport remains appealing and survives in the long-term".

They added that the founding clubs agreed that the new competition would only take place if it was "recognised by UEFA and/or FIFA or if, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, it was deemed to be a competition duly compatible for all purposes with the continuity of the founding clubs in their respective domestic competitions".

Juve, Barca and Madrid claim the Super League provided "a unique opportunity to offer fans around the world the best possible show and to reinforce global interest in the sport".

The trio of clubs say they are "ready to reconsider the proposed approach" but it would be "highly irresponsible" if they abandoned a mission to "provide effective and sustainable answers to the existential questions that threaten the football industry".

Four rounds remaining, four teams involved, and just six points to separate them.

The end of the LaLiga title race looks to be the most gripping to any of the top five European leagues this term, and almost certainly the least predictable finish in Spain since 2006-07.

Back then, there were three teams in with a chance of taking home the title on the final day of the season: Real Madrid and Barcelona, of course, plus Juande Ramos' Sevilla.

As it was, Madrid and Barca won on the last day whereas Sevilla – who needed a win and for the other two to lose – lost at home to Villarreal.

Madrid finished top by virtue of a better head-to-head record over Barca, who were essentially denied the title by their local rivals Espanyol, slumping to a 2-2 draw with them on the penultimate day to hand Los Blancos the initiative.

For the first time since then, Sevilla are again in with a shout of upsetting established order – albeit they trail the leaders by six points – though on this occasion Atletico Madrid are most prominently in the mix.

Diego Simeone's side looked certainties for the title not too long ago: at the start of February, they were 11 points clear, but they've won only seven of their 15 league games since, including a defeat to Sevilla in early April.

Yet, remarkably, it's still in Atletico's hands thanks to Barca's surprise loss at home to Granada last week.

 

What made that defeat even more incredible was the fact Granada had just 18 per cent of the ball and scored twice from an xG (expected goals) value of just 0.69. This means they netted more than two times as many as they should have, which speaks to how stunningly clinical they were.

Interestingly – or, infuriatingly, if you're a fan – it was Barcelona's second-highest share of the ball in a league game this season, behind only 82.1 per cent against Cadiz. They lost both games.

It's all shaping up for potentially decisive blows to be struck across May 8 and 9, when the top four all play each other – Barca host Atletico on Saturday, with Sevilla going to Madrid the next day.

But what does our prediction model say about the most likely outcome in the title race?

How does the predictor work?

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality. Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly. All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Let's say how the model now predicts the final league table will look...

 

Atletico take the crown

Atletico Madrid are now given a 40.6 per cent probability of winning the title, up from 38 per cent a week ago.

It essentially looks like it will come down to their showdown with Barca. Atletico hold a slight advantage, having beaten the Catalans 1-0 in Madrid in the reverse fixture, and our predictor seemingly doesn't expect Ronald Koeman's men to overturn that at Camp Nou, as the model sees Atletico winning the title by virtue of their head-to-head record.

Barcelona's chances have increased from 32.6 per cent to 35.1, with that surprise defeat to Granada preventing any bigger jump despite their 3-2 win at Valencia.

After drawing 0-0 twice in three games, Madrid's chances dropped from 34.4 per cent to 26.6 per cent last week, and they now sit at 24.3 per cent despite their most recent 2-0 win over Osasuna.

Sevilla, who conceded an injury-time winner to Athletic Bilbao last time out, remain distant outsiders. Our prediction model only gives them a 0.1 per cent probability of winning their first league title since 1946.

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