Real Madrid prepare to celebrate, Bilbao fans prepare to turn up late

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Not for the first time, it’s the pasillo, rather than the potential end of the Primera title race, that dominates the headlines in the Spanish capital.

For the uninformed, the pasillo is traditional guard of honour given to league champions by opposition players prior to the first match after the league has been won. It was being discussed in squeakily excited terms by the Madrid press as far back as the winter, when Real Madrid were 10 points clear at the top and calculations were being done whether or not Barcelona would have applaud their rivals on to the Camp Nou pitch ahead of their recent clash, as they did in 2008 (see the below video).

Instead, the talk now is of whether it will be another club not exactly enamored with all things Madridista going through the ritual - Athletic Bilbao.

If Málaga beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou in Wednesday's 8pm kick-off, Real Madrid will be officially crowned league champions for the 32nd time without kicking a ball, as their match at San Mamés doesn't get under way until 10pm. But as a floppy Málaga have next to no chance of beating Barcelona at the the Camp Nou, Real Madrid will most likely have to do the hard work themselves and defeat Athletic in their own back yard for the sixth time in seven seasons.

Málaga doing their duty and rolling over will spare some Athletic fans missing the first five minutes of the match, with rumours suggesting a group of supporters would boycott the opening stages of the fixture in order to avoid the accursed ‘pasillo’. This isn’t simply because they don’t like Real Madrid, it is also a protest against the capital club's president Florentino Pérez, who barred the Santiago Bernabeu from being a potential Copa del Rey final venue due to all important toilet repair work at the stadium, and certainly not due to the fact he didn't fancy seeing a certain Catalan club having a party on his patch.

The chance of winning la Liga even saw José Mourinho breaking his radio silence and giving Aitor Karanka a bit of a rest in the pre-match press conference. However, there may be more quiet to come in the next few weeks if things go alright on the night. “I’ll do what I always do,” said the Madrid manager, who is on the brink of winning four league titles in four countries, “I’ll be as quiet and hidden as possible.”

Jose - hidden and quiet, just as promised

It’s a strategy that Unai Emery would dearly love to adopt however, the under-pressure Primera coach is having to dodge question after question on his immediate future in Mestalla. Valencia are in action at home to Osasuna and looking to take advantage of fourth-placed Málaga’s potential Camp Nou defeat to move three points clear of the southern side. “Our limit is to be third in la Liga,” reiterated Emery to fans always wanting a bit more. “I’ll celebrate it and I invite people to celebrate it and enjoy it, too.” Good luck with that plea to the Valencia fans, says LLL.

It’s a big evening in the battle for Europa League places (stay awake, please), with Levante away at Zaragoza - who must win to stand any chance of staying up - and Atlético Madrid at home to nothing-to-play for Real Sociedad, a sure-fire sign of an imminent away victory in the Vicente Calderón, if ever there was one.

The Seville derby is also taking place, although it’s a bit of a ‘meh’, mid-table affair this time around, despite Betis having the incentive of being able to go level on points with their neighbours, should they win in the Sánchez Pizjuán. Which would be nice. Rayo will make yet another attempt to pick up the last three points needed to stay up with an away match at Mallorca.

In Tuesday’s games, Sporting pretty much sealed their relegation fate with a 3-2 home defeat to the then fourth-from-bottom side, Villarreal, who moved seven points clear of the Asturians with two games to go. Granada moved to the 42 point mark with a victory over Espanyol whilst Getafe drew 1-1 with Racing in a midday kick-off at the Coliseum in front a crowd that managed to reach the four figure mark, quite remarkably.

Wednesday Predictions
Atlético Madrid v Real Sociedad - Home win
Barcelona v Málaga - Home win
Sevilla v Betis - Draw
Mallorca v Rayo - Away win
Zaragoza v Levante - Home win
Valencia v Osasuna - Home win
Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid - Away win