Real Madrid planning to be champions on Sunday

FootballMadrid - Real Madrid are planning to clinch their 31st Spanish league title on Sunday.

In order for that to happen they need to beat midtable Athletic Bilbao at home - and hope that Villarreal and Barcelona don't win on their travels.

Real are 10 points ahead of Villarreal - away to Betis on Sunday - and 11 ahead of Barcelona, who go to La Coruna on Saturday.

Villarreal have lost their last two away games.

Barca, for their part, are likely to rest key players ahead of Tuesday's Champions League showdown against Manchester United.

"We hope to finish this thing off as soon as possible," said veteran right-back Michel Salgado on Wednesday.

The Madrid city council have already made preparations for a massive white celebration late on Sunday night in the Plaza de Cibeles, the traditional venue for "madridistas" to celebrate Real's triumphs.

Real are still waiting for a reply to their request for captain Raul Gonzalez to be given special official permission to climb up the famous Cibeles statue, which has been damaged so many times over the years by euphoric players and fans.

Raul said on Wednesday that he was "really excited" about winning his sixth Liga title, since it will be the first time he has achieved this in consecutive seasons.

Playing for Bilbao - and trying to spoil the fiesta in the Estadio Bernabeu - will be Carlos Gurpegui, who has just completed a two-year suspension for doping, the longest such ban in Spanish football history.

"It will be wonderful to feel like a real player again," said the defensive midfielder on Wednesday.

Gurpegui, now 27, tested positive for nandrolone back in 2002 - and has always protested his innocence.

The other big game on Sunday sees fourth-placed Atletico Madrid making the short trip down to Getafe, whilst fifth-placed Racing Santander are away to Mallorca.

The weekend's other games all have relegation significance, with second-from-bottom Murcia at home to Sevilla and third-from-bottom team Recreativo Huelva playing hosts to doomed bottom side Levante.

Zaragoza - level on 37 points with Huelva - are away to Espanyol, while Valladolid face Almería and Valencia take on Osasuna.

Valencia, of course, brought in club stalwart Voro to replace the unpopular Ronald Koeman on Monday.

One of Voro's first decisions was to bring back into the squad the three veterans ousted by Koeman: Santiago Canizares, David Albelda and Miguel Angel Angulo. (dpa)



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