Spectre of Tenerife haunts Madrid as Barca hope for another miracle
Real Madrid's authoritative 4-1 win at Celta Vigo in midweek put them within touching distance of a first LaLiga title for five seasons.
Zinedine Zidane's Champions League finalists have only lost four matches this season in all competitions and are enjoying a record streak of having scored in each of their past 63 matches.
The point they require at Malaga to unseat bitter rivals Barcelona is surely a formality that will render any victory over Eibar for Luis Enrique's men futile.
However, utter the name "Tenerife" and many Madrid fans will instantly cast their mind back with horror to the events of a quarter of a century ago, possibly breaking out into a cold sweat in the process.
IT'S MATCHDAY! VAMOS!
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) May 21, 2017
Beenhakker's boys throw it all away
Los Blancos headed to the Canary Islands on June 7, 1992 a point ahead of Barcelona going into their final match of the season against a Tenerife side led by for former Madrid forward and future coach and sporting director Jorge Valdano.
Leo Beenhakker's men raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to Fernando Hierro's header and a stunning free-kick from Gheorghe Hagi, while Barcelona were labouring at Camp Nou against Athletic Bilbao.
Johan Cruyff's side paraded their maiden European Cup before kick-off, won against Sampdoria at Wembley the previous month, and the probability of losing out to their bitter rivals in the title race felt like an unwelcome comedown.
A superb solo goal from Tenerife's Quique Estebaranz reduced the arrears before half-time and a Hristo Stoichkov double put victory on the cards in Catalonia, but it was impossible to foresee the preposterous act of footballing hara-kiri Madrid would embark upon during the final 15 minutes.
First Ricardo Rocha failed to clear a cross and blasted the ball into his own net as he sought to remedy the situation. Panic spread instantly, meaning Manuel Sanchis' looping, lofted backpass from the Madrid right was hardly ideal.
Goalkeeper Paco Buyo averted the own goal but could not get the ball to safety and, in scenes seemingly unfolding in slow motion, Pier Luigi Cherubino scampered towards the loose ball to deliver a body blow.
There was a five-minute wait for full-time at Camp Nou, with Barca's victory complete. When transistor radios confirmed glory, Cruyff was asked for his message to Valdano. "Muchos gracias," he replied
— Johan Cruyff (@JohanCruyff) April 14, 2017
Floro, fatalism and "Tenerifazo"
By a cruel quirk of the fixture list, Madrid left the mainland for the final day of the season once more 12 months later. Again, Tenerife laid in wait. Again, they led Barcelona by a point.
The side Valdano had steered away from relegation the previous season were now chasing victory for a place in the UEFA Cup. Again, Madrid froze. Again, Stoichkov fired Barca to glory as they beat Real Sociedad.
Madrid could rightly bemoan Ivan Zamorano having strong penalty appeals rejected but there was none of the previous year's last-ditch drama.
Oscar Dertycia and Chano headed first-half goals for Tenerife as their visitors staggered towards another title catastrophe.
Named among the substitutes by Beenhaker, Luis Enrique was back at Estadio Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez in Benito Floro's Madrid starting line-up, alongside club stalwart Michel as his colleagues revisited their darkest hour.
"I am more Madridista than Valdano"
In his current role as Malaga head coach, Michel is an intriguing character in current title plot – fuelling those old Clasico staples of suspicion and conspiracy.
Asked last month about the prospect of his side inflicting the final-day heartache he twice endured, Michel's response was acidic.
"I am more Madridista than Valdano," he said. "I would rather give Madrid a guard of honour than screw it up for them."
Michel hit a more conciliatory tone this week, insisting the Tenerife curse, or 'Tenerifazo', had nothing to do with this fixture.
— Málaga CF English (@MalagaCF_en) May 20, 2017
However, during the interim period, Malaga president Abdullah Al-Thani branded Barcelona "Catalan scum" after the reaction to Michel's Madridista claim and Camp Nou officials reported him to Spain's Anti-Violence Committee for Sport.
Conspiracy theorists can also look to the clause in Isco's 2013 transfer from Malaga to Madrid that entitles his former club to a cash windfall should he become a LaLiga champion, while Michel's in-form attacker is ex-Barca youngster Sandro Ramirez.
"I owe Barcelona everything," Sandro said. "If I score and that gives them the league... let's hope so."
After Michel infamously underlined his Madrid loyalties, Luis Enrique was entertainingly obtuse when asked if Barca could expect a favour from Malaga.
"If my grandma had wheels she wouldn't be my grandma, she'd be a bicycle."
Whatever Madrid's wheels are attached to, they must hope they do not fall off as the twice stunningly did in Tenerife.