MADRID: Barcelona can win the Spanish championship for the 19th time on Sunday after double champion Real Madrid waved the white flag in the title race with a 3-0 loss at Valencia on Saturday.
Real trails Barcelona by seven points and Pep Guardiola’s side will be crowned champion with three games to spare if it can beat Villarreal at Camp Nou on Sunday.
Real was still reeling from its 6-2 drubbing by Barcelona last Saturday in ‘El Clasico’ and it was outclassed again as two goals in three minutes laid the foundations for a comfortable Valencia win.
Juan Mata, a youth product let go by Real in 2007, scored his 11th goal of the season on 29 minutes before David Silva, a Real transfer target, netted a second in the 32nd minute.
Ruben Baraja scored a great second half volley and it could have been more but for some poor finishing.
It was Real’s first away defeat since mid-December when it lost 2-0 at Barcelona.
Sevilla beats Mallorca
Valencia moved four points behind Sevilla, 3-1 winner over Real Mallorca on Saturday, and more importantly, opened a four-point gap over Champions League rivals Atletico Madrid and Villarreal who both play on Sunday. Real lost French international Lass Diarra to a bout of flu so Javi Garcia, a youth team product back at the club after a season at Osasuna, partnered Fernando Gago in a very defensive-minded midfield.
Valencia was on top early and Iker Casillas pulled off a fine save in the opening minutes to stop Baraja’s header.
On 29 minutes Valencia got the breakthrough it deserved with Mata, capped by Spain for the first time this season, finishing with aplomb after a great lay-off from David Villa.
Three minutes later it was 2-0 as Silva was given too much time to shoot and Casillas couldn’t keep out the effort despite getting a hand on the shot.
Real coach Juande Ramos, whose future is looking bleak after recent results, didn’t make any changes at half-time and Valencia continued to carve open the best chances.
Volleying it home
Baraja hammered in a great left-footed volley to clinch the game and Real couldn’t wait to get off the pitch.
Sevilla still holds a four-point gap over Valencia after a 3-1 comeback win over Mallorca.
Aritz Aduriz put Mallorca ahead but Sevilla responded with a Freddy Kanoute penalty before second-half goals from Luis Fabiano and Jesus Navas sealed a first home win since late March.
“We are close to our objective (third place) and this win guarantees that we will be third until the penultimate weekend of the season,” said Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez.
“It would be tough on our fans if we didn’t finish third.”
Bilbao downs Betis
Athletic Bilbao warmed up for Wednesday’s King’s Cup final against Barcelona with a 1-0 win over troubled Real Betis.
Ion Velez scored the only goal of the game in the 29th minute to boost Bilbao’s hopes for the Barcelona challenge.
The results: La Liga: Sevilla 3 (Frederic Kanoute 33-pen, Luis Fabiano 60, Jesus Navas 76) bt Mallorca 1 (Aritz Aduriz 16); Athletic Bilbao 1 (Ion Velez 29) bt Real Betis 0; Valencia 3 (Juanma Mata 29, David Silva 32, Ruben Baraja 68) bt Real Madrid 0.
Serie A: Sampdoria 5 (Dessena 2, 31, Delvecchio 37, Marilungo 46, Pazzini 52) bt Reggina 0; Lazio 1 (Rocchi 56) lost to Udinese 3 (Floro Flores 60, D’Agostino 69, Quagliarella 86-pen). — Agencies