Advantage Barcelona as La Liga title race enters business end

In an unlikely turn of events, FC Barcelona has emerged as the favourite to be crowned champion this season after only one loss in its last 22 La Liga matches.

Having a game in hand, Barcelona is just two points away from current La Liga leader Atletico Madrid and can claim the top spot with a win over Granada on Thursday (File Photo).   -  Reuters

La Liga heads into the home stretch with one of the most exciting title races of recent times in full swing. Four teams are battling it out to lift the trophy this season.

In an unlikely turn of events, Barcelona has emerged as favourite to be crowned champion after one defeat in its last 22 Liga games.

That run has seen Ronald Koeman's side clawing back the advantage with league leader Atletico Madrid sitting on top with 73 points from 33 games. Barca is just two points away and it has a game in hand.

The team can leapfrog Atleti for the first time this term with a victory over Granada on Thursday and put itself in the driving seat, which seemed unlikely when Diego Simeone's side stretched its lead to 10 points at the end of January.

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"We need to win because we know we can become league leaders and that'll be a prize for us," said Koeman. "We're going game-to-game. If you look back at the season, you wouldn't have expected this. We had a large points gap and what we've done now, being in the La Liga title fight, is something big already."

After hosting eighth-placed Granada, Barca visits Koeman's former club Valencia, which is 14th, on Sunday. Atleti, who have won two of their last five league games, will look to get back to winning ways and put pressure on their rivals when they visit third-bottom Elche on Saturday, knowing they cannot afford to drop any more points in a torrid 2021.

City neighbour and reigning champion Real Madrid is also two points behind Atletico on 71 from 33 matches. However, it could be forgiven for being distracted when it hosts mid-table Osasuna on Saturday given that it will have one eye on Wednesday's Champions League semifinal second leg trip to Chelsea following a 1-1 draw during midweek.

Dark horse Sevilla, meanwhile, sits a point further back in fourth spot but, much like Barcelona, is very much in form, having lost only twice in its last 16 league outings.

Julen Lopetegui's side hosts ninth-placed Athletic Bilbao on Monday looking to take advantage of any slip-ups from the top three that might come beforehand.