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Real on verge of liga title

| | Madrid
Real on verge of liga title

Real Madrid defeated Celta Vigo 4-1 at the Balaidos on Thursday and are two games away from a feat it hasn't achieved in almost six decades: Winning the Champions League and La Liga in the same year.

Cristiano Ronaldo (10 and 48 minute) scored twice in the 4-1 win in Vigo. Karim Benzema (70  min) and Toni Kroos (88) were the other goal scorers. John Guidetti earned the consolation for the Galician side, who were down to 10 men  after Spanish striker Iago Aspas saw a red card in 62nd minute.

A draw in Malaga this weekend and a victory against Juventus in Cardiff next month would give Madrid its first double since 1958, when Raymond Kopa and Alfredo Di Stefano were leading the team.

The team had a shot at the double last season, but failed in the home league and triumphed in the Champions League.

Last season, it depended on Barcelona to falter in the final round, but this time it has the title in its own hands. The make-up victory at Celta Vigo on Wednesday left Madrid a point away from winning the title for the first time in five years.

"We have to focus only on Sunday's game, we have to win it to become the champions," said Cristiano Ronaldo.

"After that we will have 13 days to prepare well to try to win the Champions League final."

Madrid has been dominant from the start of the season, being in front for most of the league.

"We need to keep doing what we have been doing so far because the title hasn't been decided yet," manager Zinedine Zidane said.

Malaga could be tricky because it has been in strong form recently. Although it is only 11th in the standings, Malaga has won four of its last five matches. At the Rosaleda, it has won four in a row, beating Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, and Celta.

"Malaga is a good team, but we are Real Madrid and we have to show that we are the better team and that we want to be the champions," Ronaldo said.

Madrid last won a double in 2014, but it was with the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. Barcelona achieved the treble in 2009 and 2015. It also won a Champions League and La Liga double in 2011.

Madrid has won two Champions Leagues in the last three seasons, but it hasn't been successful in La Liga since 2012. It is trying to avoid its biggest title drought in the league since the 1980s.

Barcelona's hopes of a third straight title depend on it beating mid-table Eibar at the Camp Nou on Sunday and Madrid losing in Malaga.

Third-place Atletico and fourth-place Sevilla have already guaranteed a place in the Champions League next season, although Sevilla will have to go through a playoff in August to enter the group stage.

Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad are still fighting for the two Europa League spots, with Villarreal and Athletic ahead and depending on themselves over the weekend.

Villarreal will play at Valencia, and Real Sociedad visits Celta. Athletic plays at Atletico in what will be the last league game at Vicente Calderon Stadium before the hosts move into a new venue.

Granada, Osasuna, and Sporting Gijon have already been relegated.

Romero saves the day for United Southampton: Sergio Romero showed Manchester United will be in safe hands in the Europa League final by saving an early penalty and producing many other great stops in a 0-0 draw at Southampton in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Filling in for the rested David de Gea, the Argentina goalkeeper tipped aside Manolo Gabbiadini's sixth-minute spot-kick that was awarded for a handball against Eric Bailly even though video replays the contact was outside the area.

Romero was busy early in the second half as he preserved his clean sheet for United, which fielded a slew of fringe players - including Wayne Rooney - a week out from the Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm.

United manager Jose Mourinho has already said Romero will start in the final ahead of regular goalkeeper David de Gea, as he has done throughout the European competition, and praised his performance.

"Of course, Sergio had a very good performance. More than very good," Mourinho added. "The team was not perfect but the players gave me good things. They showed they want to be in that final."

Romero's form as back-up for De Gea this season has been very impressive, giving Mourinho plenty to ponder ahead of an offseason when Real Madrid could come back in for De Gea following interest in the goalkeeper in previous transfer windows.

Mourinho downplayed any chance of United allowing De Gea to leave, saying: "David is top in the world and we want to keep the top in the world."

Anthony Martial came closest to scoring for United, curling a shot against the post in the 71st minute.

The game had little significance for either side, with United guaranteed to finish in sixth place and Southampton currently in eighth place and unable to finish any higher.

United, criticized for playing cautiously under Mourinho, has scored just two goals in its last five games.

Southampton's wait for a home goal moved past the six-hour mark.

 
 
 

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