Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will play a La Liga title decider at the Nou Camp stadium next weekend after leaders Atletico drew 1-1 at home to Malaga and second-placed Barca were held to a 0-0 stalemate at Elche.
On a day of nerve-jangling tension, when Atletico came desperately close to a late goal that would have clinched the championship, Real Madrid dropped out of the title race when they suffered a surprise 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo that left them five points behind their city rivals with one game remaining.
Samuel Sanchez gave Malaga a shock lead 25 minutes from time at Atletico’s packed Calderon stadium, where the fans have been enjoying the club’s best season in years.
Jose Sosa levelled for the home side, who play Real in the Champions League final on May 24, in the 74th minute and Adrian came close to a winner in stoppage time but was denied by a brilliant save from Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
At Elche’s Martinez Valero arena in Alicante, Barca created plenty of chances but as so often this season they failed to take them. Their bid for a fifth La Liga title in six seasons remains alive, however, despite consecutive draws as Atletico again failed to take advantage of Barca’s stumble.
Real’s faint hopes of pipping Atletico and Barca to the title were extinguished when a Charles double either side of halftime condemned them to a defeat that ended their chances of a Champions League, La Liga and King’s Cup treble.
Atletico are top on 89 points from 37 matches, with Barca on 86 and Real, who were missing key players through injury at Celta including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, on 84 points. If Barca beat Atletico next they will be champions as they would have a better head-to-head record after the title rivals drew 0-0 at the Calderon in Madrid in January.
A draw would be enough for Atletico to secure their first domestic league title since 1996, when current coach Diego Simeone was in the team, and become the first team other than Spain’s wealthy big two to win La Liga since Valencia in 2004.