Real Madrid wraps up Spanish league season against Betis before focusing on Champions League final

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid will have one more chance to prepare for its upcoming Champions League final when it hosts Real Betis in a meaningless game that concludes their Spanish league season on Saturday.

Madrid claimed its 36th domestic league crown three weeks ago, and since then coach Carlo Ancelotti has rotated his squad to reduce the the risk of injuries to his starters.

Ancelotti kept stars Jude Bellingham and Vinícius Júnior on the bench in last weekend’s 4-4 draw with Villarreal and is likely to do more of the same against Betis ahead of the European title match against Borussia Dortmund in London on June 1.

The biggest decision for Ancelotti ahead of the Champions League final is picking between goalkeepers Andriy Lunin and Thibaut Courtois.

Lunin excelled after replacing Courtois when the Belgium goalie tore his ACL in August. But Courtois has recently returned to the field and has played three games, all in the Spanish league. Lunin was back in goal for the high-scoring draw with Villarreal.

Saturday’s game will be the last time Toni Kroos plays at the Santiago Bernabeu. The 34-year-old Germany midfielder said earlier this week that he will retire after this summer’s European Championships.

Kroos has been with Madrid since 2014, helping it win 22 titles, including four European Cups and four Spanish leagues. Now he can add to that haul if Madrid beats Dortmund.

The drama has been drained from the 38th and final round of the league with all the European competition berths locked up and Almeria, Granada and Cadiz already relegated.

Barcelona, Girona and Atletico Madrid will join Madrid in the Champions League next season. Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad are Europa League bound, while Betis will play in the Conference League.

Xavi Hernández will coach his last game for Barcelona after the club said it was parting ways with its former player following a trophyless season.


AP soccer:

Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press