Atletico Madrid midfielder Tiago has been keen to stress the importance of their final-day La Liga clash with relegation-threatened Granada on Saturday.
The deposed champions head into the clash at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes still not secure of third place and a spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Diego Simeone’s men are three points clear of fourth-placed Valencia – who visit another side in danger of the drop in Almeria – but have a worse head-to-head record against Nuno’s side.
Granada are two points clear of second-bottom Almeria and third-bottom Eibar and will be safe should both those sides suffer last-day defeats.
Wins for either of that duo could throw Granada’s league status into doubt, although they do have the benefit of a superior head-to-head record versus fourth-bottom Deportivo La Coruna, who visit new champions Barcelona.
Tiago told a pre-match press conference: “It’s hard to think that a match can define a season but it’s true that this point is very important to us.
“Being third is not the same as being fourth and we are aware that it’s going to be very difficult, that we’re going to play a very complicated match against a rival that also needs the points. It’s crucial for us to finish third.
“All the teams that need points in the last round play a final because it’s their last chance. It’s a match that will decide a whole year and it’s always difficult to face such a game.
“We have to be ready for a difficult match.”
Safety for Granada seemed an improbable prospect at the start of the month before a run of three straight wins has seen them surge towards survival.
Midfielder Ruben Perez believes Granada need to be patient against an Atletico side with the second best defensive record in the league.
“A month [ago] it was almost impossible for us to get salvation and now we are a game away from doing so,” Perez said.
“The most important thing is to play a long game, do not concede a goal and take advantage of the chances we have to bring us three points.”
Granada will be without midfielder Javi Marquez and forward Lass Bangoura due to suspension.
And, with the Andalusians winless against Atletico since their return to La Liga in 2011, the hosts are more likely to face a nervous wait to discover whether they will be spending another season in La Liga.
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