By Alan Feehely l @azulfeehely
Nearly a full calendar year after it began, La Liga’s 2019/20 season will come to an end on Sunday evening. Disrupted by COVID-19, it has been a season with no precedent in the history of Spanish football but one that fans, players and coaches will undoubtedly be thankful to see the end of as they look forward to a future return to some semblance of normality. So what is still to play for on the final day?
Real Madrid sealed their 34th league title with a 2-1 victory over Villarreal in Valdebebas on Thursday night, but in truth this was not a vintage campaign for either of Spain’s big two. However, to their credit, Madrid returned from lockdown with a laser-like focus and won a remarkable ten games in a row, led by inspired veterans Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema. Their campaign will come to an end nearby in Leganés, while Barcelona, seven points behind their great rivals and very much a wounded animal, travel to Deportivo Alavés.
Alavés preserved their top-flight status by beating Real Betis on Thursday, but Leganés are fighting for their lives. Just one-point shy of Celta Vigo and safety, they will face off against the newly-crowned champions with everything at stake. Celta themselves are away to already-relegated Espanyol, who are eight points behind also-relegated Mallorca. Both games will be kicking off at nine Spanish time, and are sure to make for captivating viewing.
The Champions League places are already finalised, with Atlético Madrid and Sevilla joining the top two. Sevilla are two points behind Atléti and are hosting Valencia at the Sánchez-Pizjuán while Atléti play Real Sociedad. Should things go their way, the Andalusians could finish an impressive debut campaign under Julen Lopetegui in third place, but that is not all that’s riding on these two games. Valencia could enter the Europa League places should they secure victory and see results go their way, while La Real will be looking to retain sixth spot and their own qualification. Elsewhere, Getafe travel to Levante with their fate also in their hands, while Granada host Athletic Club in the same situation as Valencia. Villarreal, who play Eibar, have already confirmed Europa League qualification.
For the clubs mired in mid-table, the only thing left to fight for is prize money (about €8m per place) and pride – Betis travel to Valladolid while Osasuna take on Mallorca. It will be strange for the players to see their season end in an empty stadium, but we as a society have become frighteningly accustomed to the unreal. All we can hope for is a swift return to full stadiums and all the regalia, culture and atmosphere that comes with them, the sociological profundity inextricable from Spanish football. But before that, we have one more round of action to go.
Check out the full list of final day matches in La Liga.