The curtain is set to be drawn on the 2015-16 La Liga season this weekend, with Barcelona and Real Madrid vying for the title and one of three hoping to stay up.
Victories for Barca and Madrid last week, along with Atletico’s defeat to Levante, have taken the title race down the wire, although its fate rests in the hands of the Catalans, who lead the standings by a point going into the final round of fixtures.
However, Week 38 has been tainted somewhat by talk in the Spanish Press of ‘briefcases’ – a reference to clubs allegedly making payments to others for a favourable result. In this season’s case, Granada are the team reportedly in with the chance of a financial windfall.
Their goalkeeper Ivan Kelava was forced to backtrack on an earlier claim that his side would possibly be paid out by Madrid if they succeeded in stopping Barca on Saturday as a draw or win for the Andalusians would award Los Blancos the title, providing they beat Deportivo La Coruna.
There has also been a perceived divide among the club’s players. Granada pair David Barral and Isaac Cuenca posed with a briefcase full of €500 notes on Spanish television, while their colleagues Ruben Rochina and David Lomban – former Barca youngsters – noted “on the pitch, there are no friends”.
The situation has been made more cloudy by Granada securing their top-flight status on the previous matchday, Jose Gonzalez’s men consequently having nothing to play for when they host Barca. Madrid’s opponents Depor almost handed the former the title last season when they came back from behind to draw 2-2 with the Catalans on the final day, although history would have it that La Blaugrana lifted the trophy and the Galicians stayed up.
Nonetheless, in the event that both teams finish on 88 points – resulting in a Granada win and Depor draw – Barca would successfully defend their throne thanks to their superior head-to-head record against Madrid, which has them 5-2 up.
Regarding affairs down the bottom, one of Getafe, Sporting Gijon and Rayo Vallecano will ply their trade in La Liga next term, with two of those being condemned to the drop.
As it stands, Getafe are out of woods, albeit only by the virtue of head-to-head against Sporting rather than a greater points tally, but Rayo will surely be kicking themselves after wasting their trip to Real Sociedad, a side destined for mid-table, last week.
Their 2-1 defeat at Anoeta may have left them needing to rely on other results, even if they beat already-relegated Levante on Sunday, but the nature of their loss was marred by allegations of match-fixing, amidst a sudden shift in the betting odds favouring a Real win towards the end of the match.
Finally, there is the smaller matter of who will finish in sixth and seventh out of Celta Vigo and Athletic Bilbao. Celta are currently a point clear of Athletic, who in turn have beaten the Galicians twice, and the higher placing would qualify that team for the Europa League group stage as opposed to the third qualifying round.