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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 24, 2008

Real get first chance to wrap up league title

MADRID, April 24 (Reuters) - Real Madrid will wrap up their 31st league title with four games to spare if they beat Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu on Sunday and both Villarreal and Barcelona fail to win their games this weekend.

Real went 10 points clear at the top after last week's 2-0 win over Racing Santander and are now within touching distance of another trophy.

'We took a giant step towards the title in Santander, and that is why we were so delighted with the win,' skipper Raul told reporters this week.

'The title is now within our grasp and we depend on no one except ourselves, but we need to stay calm and finish the job.'

Barcelona take on Deportivo Coruna on Saturday, while Villarreal play Real Betis earlier on Sunday in must-win games for the chasing pair.

Should they slip up, Real will take to the pitch against Bilbao at 1900 GMT knowing whether or not they can clinch the title in front of their own fans.

'A lot of things have to happen for it to occur and with second place up grabs neither Villarreal nor Barcelona will want to lose any points in their matches,' said Raul.

'But we will have the advantage of knowing the other results when we play. We know that we are just a step away. I would like to win the league at the Bernabeu but wherever we do it, it will be a great success and we can celebrate it with our fans.'

While Real have the luxury of knowing that time is on their side, Barcelona could have their minds on the second leg of their Champions League semi-final with Manchester United when they travel to La Coruna.

The Catalans gave one of their best performances of recent months in Wednesday's 0-0 home draw against United but they have won just one of their last eight league games.

Depor are on a roll, meanwhile, after winning five out of their last six.

Second-placed Villarreal remain focused on the league and with a place in the group stage of the Champions League at stake they have added incentive when they meet an improving Betis.

Valencia's humiliating 5-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao last week cost coach Ronald Koeman his job and with the team just two points above the relegation zone there will be little room for error for new boss Salvador Gonzalez Voro in his first match at home to fellow strugglers Osasuna.

Cash-strapped neighbours Levante, meanwhile, could be relegated without kicking a ball after players announced they will go on strike before their game at Recreativo Huelva unless paid money they are owed by the club.

A no-show by Levante would have major implications on the relegation battle and is likely to trigger a series of complaints by the affected sides.

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