Real-life Frodo and Sam.

La Liga, Week 34: El Clasico, And The End Of All Things

I'm happy to be here with you, Liga fans. Here, at the end of all things.

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La Liga, Week 34: Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao Grab Important Wins

Atlético Madrid, fresh off their triumphant--though not sentencing--win over Valencia in the Europa League seimfinals last week, grabbed an important three points in their push to make the Champions League today, defeating Espanyol 3-1 with goals from Arda Turan (two absolute stunners), and Diego Godín.

Didac scored Espanyol's lone goal, though the pericos probably didn't even deserve that: Barcelona's second team was pretty atrocious today, as they were outplayed by Atleti in almost every possible way.

Nevertheless, the score was locked at 1-1 until the 59th minute, when Arda Turan unleashed an absolute beast of a shot from distance. The Spanish announcers said that the ball had come "all the way from Turkey" to save Atleti's Liga campaign, if that gives you some perspective. The Turk would finish off the match only two minutes later, as he controlled a long ball from Godín in the area, turned and blasted it in with his left foot. He was a wonder to behold today, and Atleti are pretty lucky that he flew all the way from Turkey just to save their season.

Similarly, Athletic Bilbao breezed past a sorry, soulless Racing Santander 0-1 side to take another three points. The win will let Athletic, and Marcelo Bielsa, feel a bit more confident about their chances of remaining in the Champions League spots in la Liga, while simultaneously allowing them to main their focus on the Europa League. Bielsa chose to give Fernando Llorente and Iker Muniain the day off (though Llorente did come in in the middle of the second half), and blasted through the match with mostly substitutes.

Toquero scored the game's lone goal in the 12th minute, but the match was really over much before that: Racing, a side that has already booked their ticket for Segunda next season, couldn't even muster the energy to try to defend against Bilbao's second-stringers. It's sort of sad to see a team so despondent; even in front of a well-meaning home crowd, Racing couldn't find the energy to get up for this match.

Ultimately, this was a game whose outcome was all but predetermined: a talented Bilbao team would come in and easily breeze past a soulless, tired Racing squad. That's what we all predicted. But it's always soul-crushing to watch a team so clearly despondently playing out their last moments of glory, even if you know it's coming.

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Barcelona Vs. Real Madrid, 2012 El Clasico: Final Score, Cristiano Ronaldo Finally A Madrid Hero

Real Madrid have one hand on the La Liga trophy after their performance at the Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon. They haven't been able to get a good result against Barcelona at their own stadium in the league since Pep Guardiola took over the Blaugrana, but they've pulled off a spectacular result away from home, winning 2-1 to go seven points clear of their rivals at the top of the table.

Sami Khedira scored the opening goal just 17 minutes in, tapping in a simple one after a corner kick. Pepe created the chance by beating Adriano in the air, nodding the ball down towards the goal. Victor Valdes got his hand to the ball, but should have been able to hold on or get the ball away from a dangerous area. He did neither and the ball fell to Khedira for an easy finish.

Iker Casillas had terrific command of his area in the first half, but didn't actually have a recorded save on the box score. Still, even though Casillas deserves credit for his great play, the Blaugrana looked completely out of sorts in the first 45 minutes and never really looked like they were going to score.

Things didn't look any better for Barcelona at the beginning of the second half. Christian Tello -- a surprise starter over all of Pedro Rodriguez, Cesc Fabregas and Isaac Cuenca -- had two terrible back to back sitters in a 90 second period. The second was set up by Thiago Alcantara with a terrific through ball, but the shot was so bad that words hardly do it justice. He couldn't have pulled off a worse miss if he tried.

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Barcelona didn't have another great chance until the 68th minute, when Xavi ripped a 20-yard shot just wide of Casillas' far post. That would be the last kick of the ball for the little playmaker, who was subbed off for Alexis Sanchez. Incredibly, it would take just one minute for Sanchez to have a major impact on the game.

Lionel Messi did most of the work to set up Barca's 70th minute equalizer, though he was a few steps removed from the actual finish. He started the move with a great dribbling run, then a ball out wide to Tello. He took a shot and hit the target this time, but Casillas made a save. The ball fell to Adriano who cent the ball back in, and Sanchez eventually applied the finish in bizarre fashion, putting it in with his chest after a bit of a scramble.

In past Clasicos, this would have been the beginning of the end for Real Madrid, who have not reacted well to Barcelona breaking through their defense. Instead, Madrid responded this time around, scoring the winner just two minutes later. Appropriately, the man who responded was the man who has been on the brunt of all of the criticism each time Madrid has lost to their most hated rivals, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mesut Özil set him up with an absolutely stunning pass, but Ronaldo did most of the work. He showed absolutely remarkable pace to blow by Barcelona's defense while easily keeping the ball under control, then placing a fantastic narrow angle finish past Victor Valdes. It was the second time in the game where Valdes should have done much better, and his poor goalkeeping helped lead to a Madrid goal, but there's no taking away from Ronaldo or Özil on this goal. It was brilliant.

Both teams will have to quickly move on from this game and focus on Champions League, but Jose Mourinho might let his team celebrate just a little bit tonight. They were the better side than Barcelona, despite what the possession and passing numbers suggest, and they're well on their way to capturing a well deserved La Liga title.

You can find all of our previous game coverage in our Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 2012 El Clasico StoryStream. For more on the two teams, head over to Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid and FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.

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