Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted to disappointment at a huge missed opportunity after Sunday's 2-2 home draw with Valencia but said he had always expected the title race to go down to the wire.
There was a series of surprises in Liga at the weekend as Barcelona drew 2-2 at home to Getafe before leaders Atletico Madrid lost 2-0 at Levante and then Real missed their chance to take advantage as they were held by Los Che at the Bernabeu.
Ancelotti said the title winner would only emerge after the final day's fixtures, when Madrid host Espanyol at the Bernabeu while Atletico travel to Barcelona's Camp Nou.
"La Liga is a tough championship, as it always has been," Ancelotti his postmatch news conference. "It was a difficult weekend for the three top teams. Now is more open than ever. I have always said that this Liga was going to be decided in the final games."
Valencia took the lead at the Bernabeu just before half-time through Jeremy Mathieu's header and, though Madrid equalised through Sergio Ramos, former Bernabeu youth-teamer Dani Parejo restored the visitors' lead. It seemed Valencia were set for all three points before Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning late equaliser, which Italian coach said could be vital come the season's climax.
"We missed a good opportunity, but it is not the end of the world," Ancelotti said. "By winning today, Atletico would have needed a win in Barcelona [on the final day] but now a draw would be enough for them. Cristiano's goal was very important. Losing today would have meant losing La Liga. Now we're still in the fight. It was a crucial goal."
Ancelotti said the physical and mental energy used up in Tuesday's 4-0 Champions League semifinal second-leg win at Bayern Munich had taken a toll.
"We were great during the opening 15 minutes, and had a lot of chances," he said. "Then things started to get more difficult. Valencia played on Thursday but were mentally fresh because they didn't have to deal with the same amount of pressure as Real Madrid.
"Once they scored it became more difficult for us. We fought hard, but lacked quality and also physical presence. The same thing happened to Atletico and Chelsea [after their Champions League semifinal]. It is normal to lack a bit of intensity after playing in the Champions League and that has cost us here today."
Ancelotti said Madrid's players were not happy with the draw but would now seek to make amends in their remaining three games, starting with Wednesday's game at relegation-threatened Real Valladolid.
"The players weren't happy at the end because we went out to win," he said. "But we are still as motivated and eager as ever to continue fighting for the La Liga title. There are three games remaining and in order to have a chance of lifting the title we have to win them all. It won't be easy, we have two away games, but we will fight tooth and nail. We are used to playing every three days. I think we'll play better on Wednesday than we have done today."