Del Bosque's thoroughbreds
Thoroughbreds that they are, Vicente del Bosque's team have waited until the final straight before breaking clear of challengers Real. Madrid's 4-0 win at arch-rivals Club Atlético de Madrid last weekend, combined with the Basque team's defeat by RC Celta de Vigo, took them two points clear at the top.
It was no more than Roberto Carlos expected. He said: "We have not been as consistent as we would have wanted but we knew Real Sociedad would falter and couldn't win all their games. It was just a question of waiting for them to slip up - which they did at the best possible time for us."
Now Madrid must protect their advantage at home against Athletic - and hope that Atlético put up a fight against Real in San Sebastian. However, few expect anything other than an Atlético rollover at the Anoeta, given that Real will be champions if they win and Madrid fail to take maximum points.
Roberto Carlos, a friend of Atlético's Brazilian midfield player Emerson, begged to differ. "Atlético will go out to win," he said. "They are professionals and will show this against Real Sociedad. But they won't be thinking about us either when the match starts, that's for sure.
'One last push'
"But nor will we be thinking about Real Sociedad," he continued. "All we need to become champions is to beat Athletic, and we are going into the weekend more confident than Real Sociedad. The result against Atlético has given us the strength to make one last push."
Roberto Carlos also denied that the news of David Beckham's transfer had unduly affected Madrid's preparations. "The club have explained why it had to be announced this week, when we are playing for the championship," he said. "The players understand.
Up for a fight
"But it still bothered us because nobody has been talking about the game. It's important that everyone is focused on that, because Athletic will come here to win. It is really important for them to qualify for the UEFA Cup - we know that and are prepared to fight them all the way."
If Madrid do clinch the title, it will be the player's second at the Bernabéu in three years. If they do not, it will still have been a good season, he said. "We have won the UEFA Super Cup and European/South American Cup, which people seem to have forgotten about. We cannot win the [UEFA] Champions League every season. But the supporters here demand big titles every year. That puts you under a lot of pressure - so thank God we are used to dealing with that pressure."
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