The only thing definitely decided in La Liga heading into the penultimate round of fixtures this weekend is the first three places, with Barcelona having wrapped up the title at a canter and Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid confirming their Champions League qualification. Although just four teams have virtually nothing riding on their remaining games, for the rest there is still very much to play for.
The race for fourth and the chance to reach the Champions League qualifying round is between Real Sociedad and Valencia, who are level on 62 points. The Basques have the advantage of ‘goal average’ but face a difficult run-in with a home game against Real Madrid and a visit to relegation threatened Deportivo de La Coruna. In Valencia’s case a visit from Granada and a tricky trip to Sevilla awaits.
With Copa del Rey winners Atletico Madrid qualified for the Champions League, the fifth, sixth and seventh-placed sides will play in next season’s Europa League and it is a fight between Malaga, Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, Sevilla and Getafe for those places. However, it must be taken into account that Malaga have been handed a one-year UEFA ban that is subject to appeal. On the field Manuel Pellegrini’s men, five points clear of Rayo Vallecano in eighth, have it in their own hands and receive Deportivo at home this weekend before travelling to face Barcelona on the final day.
Real Betis’ hopes were dealt a blow with a 1-0 defeat to Real Mallorca on Monday and Los Beticos take on Real Zaragoza on home turf prior to visiting Levante, who have nothing to play for. As for Rayo, the Madrid side must hope both Andalusian outfits slip up while they take on Getafe away and Athletic Bilbao at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas.
Sevilla’s hopes rest on Malaga imploding and at least one Rayo defeat, yet they have it far from easy with a visit to Osasuna and a match against Valencia at the Sanchez Pizjuan. Getafe are on the same points as Sevilla and have a derby with Rayo and an away game at Granada to look forward to.
In mid-table the season is over for Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol barring a miracle. If they both win the two remaining fixtures, Malaga’s ban is upheld and Rayo, Sevilla and Getafe do not win another game, they could conceivably finish in a Europa League place, even if it is a long shot. For Levante and Real Valladolid there is now the 2013-14 campaign to look forward to.
At the bottom the final three places are still to be decided and it looks as if it could go to the wire with six teams involved – Granada, Osasuna, Deportivo, Real Zaragoza, Real Mallorca and Celta Vigo.
Granada are not mathematically safe despite being five points clear of the drop zone and need two points to be sure of top-flight football at Los Carmenes next term. Only Zaragoza can catch them and they have games at Valencia and home to Getafe to come. Osasuna are two points clear and their key game looks like being Sevilla at El Sadar as they have Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu after that.
Fourth-bottom Deportivo could not have picked two tougher games than Europa League-chasing Malaga away and Champions League hopefuls Real Sociedad at home, while Zaragoza, who took over from Depor in the bottom three after defeat to Athletic, have to play Betis away and Atletico Madrid at La Romareda.
Bottom two Mallorca and Celta must win both remaining games and pray for a miracle to have any chance of escape. Mallorca’s victory over Betis meant they have avoided being mathematically relegated for the moment. The Islanders have to hope Depor lose both their games and Zaragoza at least one, and they will be up against Atletico Madrid away and Valladolid at home.
Celta are four points from safety and long odds-on favourites for an instant return to La Segunda. The Galicians need to take maximum points while the four teams immediately above them must all drop points.