MADRID - Six months ago Barcelona could not imagine that they will probably need a record-breaking 99 points in order to retain the Spanish Liga title.
But that appears to be the figure they will have to reach because of an extraordinary late run by Real Madrid, who are just one point behind them, on 92 points compared to Barca's 93.
The Whites have won all five of their games since losing 2-0 at home to Barca on April 10. On Wednesday, they slaughtered fifth-placed Mallorca 4-1 with Cristiano Ronaldo's first hat-trick in Spain.
"I want to be champion," said Ronaldo after the Palma exhibition. "I still don't see myself winning the league title but I have the hope that it will happen. We have to hope that Barcelona will drop points."
Real's rout against Mallorca means that Barca have no choice but to beat Sevilla - unless Ronaldo and company slip up at home against Athletic Bilbao. The matches will be played tomorrow.
"The Sevilla match will be crucial," said Barca playmaker Xavi after watching Real in Mallorca.
"We never thought that we would have to win so many points, but that's the way it is."
Xavi has been playing with a bruised left foot for two weeks now, unable to miss any matches because of Real's resurgence.
Defender Gerard Pique limped out of Tuesday's 4-1 thrashing of Tenerife with a battered right leg and, in normal circumstances, would rest this weekend. But the circumstances are anything but normal and Pique will probably declare himself fit.
It will also be an important match for Sevilla, who are just one point ahead of Mallorca in their battle for fourth place.
Meanwhile, Valencia will be trying to secure third place away to local rivals Villarreal. - Sapa-DPA