Barcelona needing to win their last home game of the season to leave them 90 minutes from their 24th league title, and playing Espanyol… what could possibly go wrong?
Raggedy-old, until recently relegation-threatened, Espanyol have the second-worst defensive record in the league and look like the perfect opponents for a Barca side stumbling rather than sprinting over the finish line, but local rivalry does strange things to teams and Espanyol will have been one of just a few sides Luis Enrique would rather not face on Sunday.
What can possibly go wrong? Just ask Raul Tamudo.
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Tamudo played for Espanyol for 14 seasons, scoring 129 goals, but his two most memorable strikes came in the second to last game of the 2006-07 season, when Barcelona were leading the league and their neighbours pulled the rug from beneath them.
Thanks to Tamudo’s brilliantly-taken brace Barca drew the game and blew the league. This season the scenario is similar. Espanyol had secured safety in 2007 but wanted to restore lost pride after a disappointing season. They scored first after Tamudo ran on to an Ivan de la Pena through ball. Barca levelled via a Lionel Messi handball. Barca scored again but Tamudo struck to level on 90 minutes.
FOOTBALL 2006-2007 La Liga Barcelona-Espanyol Tamudo
Image credit: AFP
Playing at the same time, Real Madrid had drawn with Zaragoza thanks to a late Ruud van Nistelrooy goal and the league had been turned on its head. There were miles between Zaragoza’s La Romareda and the Camp Nou but seconds between the two goals that changed the course of the title race. It was now Real going into the last weekend knowing a win would see them crowned champions.
Fabio Capello’s Madrid did win their last match of the campaign at home to Mallorca, thanks to Jose Antonio Reyes’ appearance as a substitute for David Beckham. The former Arsenal winger scored twice and Real won La Liga.
Barca fans dreading the worst have been keen to point out the major differences between this season and that one.
Ronaldinho was Barcelona’s talisman back in 2007 but after picking up a red card against Getafe he was unable to play in what was the most decisive game of the season. Barcelona won their last match 5-1 against Tarragona but it was not enough because of Madrid’s 3-1 win.
Iker Casillas lifts the Liga trophy in 2007
Image credit: AFP
That season Barcelona’s centre-forward was Samuel Eto’o and he was anything but focused having fallen out with Ronaldinho and with Barca coach Frank Rijkaard. The contrast with Luis Suarez is stark. The Uruguayan has scored 35 league goals this season and is on course to pip Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain to the Golden Shoe.
There is one other factor that is very different from nine years ago. But this time it is something that does not favour Barcelona. Barca slipped up in 2007 but Real Madrid were dropping points too. Without that late Van Nistelrooy goal they would never have taken advantage of Tamudo’s equaliser and even on the final day of the season they did so much to throw the league away, going behind after 15 minutes and not overhauling Mallorca until minute 82.
This season both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are flying through the final fixtures. Real Madrid are home to Valencia on Sunday and Atletico Madrid must go to Levante.
Valencia have nothing to play for having assured survival but stopped short of making a late charge for Europe. Levante are already down.
Boosted by having qualified for the Champions League final, both Madrid teams will have an extra spring in their step – enough to leapfrog Barcelona if they allow a latter-day Raul Tamudo to ruin their season.
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