Atletico, Barcelona to vie for Spanish league title; Real drop out of race

Atletico, Barcelona to vie for Spanish league title; Real drop out of race

Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will play a La Liga title decider at the Nou Camp stadium next weekend after the front runners drew on Sunday to set up one of the most dramatic finishes in Spain's top flight for more than 60 years.

On a day of nerve-jangling tension, when leaders Atletico came desperately close to a late goal that would have clinched the championship, the Madrid club had to come from behind to rescue a 1-1 draw at home to Malaga while second-placed Barca were held to a 0-0 stalemate at Elche.

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.

Atletico are top on 89 points from 37 matches, with Barca on 86 and Real, who were missing key players through injury including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, on 84.

If Barca beat Atletico next Sunday 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 side other than Spain's wealthy big two to win La Liga since Valencia in 2004.

The title has only twice been decided with a winner-takes-all clash on the final day and not since 1951 when Atletico pipped Sevilla.

"If they had told us at the start of the season that we would get to the final day at the Nou Camp with a three-point lead over Barca nobody would have believed it," Atletico coach Diego Simeone told a news conference.

"Now it's 50-50, like in any final," added the Argentine, whose side are also through to the Champions League final to face Real Madrid in Lisbon on May 24.

"Our rivals are used to these moments. We are humble and what this team has done is incredible, it has cost a huge amount of effort and we hope it all comes together next Sunday."

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. Toby Alderweireld levelled for the home side in the 74th minute and Adrian came close to a winner in stoppage time but was denied by a brilliant save from Willy Caballero.

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