Phil Ball: Like your funeral, this final day always comes around. And the trouble with this 38th match-day is that there ain’t too much hanging on it. The league authorities have therefore separated the meaningful games from the less meaningful ones, although fans don’t always see things that way. Whatever, six of the ten games will have some impact either on where teams are to be found next season, and/or on their budgets. And even more crucially, I am leading Eduardo by 2 points. Shall I play it tactically, or go on the offensive and try to widen that goal difference?
Shall we? Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
- Rayo Vallecano (12th) vs Levante (19th). 20/5/21:00
Phil Ball: 1. This game is one of the four that has no ‘meaning’, save the fact that Iraola has been signed up for another season in Vallecas (and he’s happy) and Levante are already down, as we know. It’s impossible to predict because it depends on whether both coaches put out experimental sides with a view to next season, or shop windows. Rayo maybe need to go out on a decent mood. Levante have kept their chins up, but it’s a home win for me.
Eduardo Alvarez: 2. It’s going to be shocking, but I believe that Levante will go down having won 27 points during the second half of the season. They will win this one too, as Iraola’s contract extension won’t be able to hide the fact that Rayo’s management could hardly be less skilled at their job and have kept every single club team unhappy for a few years now.
- Real Madrid (1st) vs Betis (5th). 20/5/21:00
PB: X. Funny old game. There’s nothing technically hanging on this, apart from the 5th spot retention for Betis. Real Sociedad can overtake them if they beat Atlético, but both are in the Europa League for next season so the only thing at stake here is finishing on a good note. Betis have been great this year, it has to be said, and Madrid deserve their title, but again, which team will both coaches play? I think they’ll both go for it, and it’ll end up a draw. Could be a good game, despite appearances.
EA: X. Agree with the general idea that this could be fun to watch. Both teams know what to do with the ball and free of pressure and responsibility we should see a handful of skilled plays you wouldn’t normally imagine in this type of match. However, it could also go the other way and end up on a stalemate between two uninterested teams. In any case, hard to pick one of the two prevailing.
- Valencia (11th) vs Celta (10th). 21/5/ 17:30
PB: 2. Nobody likes Valencia anymore, and apparently not even Bordalás. It hasn’t been a great season for them, cup-run notwithstanding, and the Carlos Soler rumours are unsettling. I can’t see them getting tanked up for this one. Celta are looking the livelier of the two. Away win.
EA: 2. Agreed. Valencia are going down the drain in every possible element a football club should consider for success. They are shopping around half of the team – the most talented half, mind you – and there’s nothing in terms of hirings on the table that could compensate those sales. They need the money so badly that they will sell players such as Gaya or Soler for peanuts and at this point one hardly sees Bordalás move from Getafe to Valencia as progress, even with that Copa del Rey final thrown in. Celta have looked terrific of late, and Aspas & co. will want to finish a very good second half of the season with a bang.
- Elche (15th) vs Getafe (14th): 21/5, 18:30
PB: X. I can’t imagine a massive TV audience for this one. It sounds as grim as it may well be. Elche have lost their last three and Getafe have drawn their last four. Elche are safe, but in the end it’s not been a very satisfactory season. Getafe started very badly, but have pulled up to safety. Draw? Very probably.
EA: 1. I suspect that the Argentinean contingent playing for the hosts will want to appear on the telly even if it’s only to find another European club to play for next season. And Getafe, second in the tournament in terms of tied matches (15, vs Sevilla’s 16) can’t possibly tie another one, can they?
- Alavés (20th) vs Cádiz (18th). 21/5/ 20:00
PB: 2. Now we move into the meaningful zone. Alavés are down, but Cádiz are hanging on to the wire by their fingernails. Call me perverse, but I don’t think that Alavés will have accepted any cryptocurrency for this one and will want to play it out professionally. Cádiz need to win, although a draw might save them (see Mallorca and Granada games), but it’s tricky. This is a very interesting game actually. How good are Alavés without Escalante? Well… at least he motivates and he ain’t playing. This is hard to predict but I think Cádiz will do the heroic and win it. They’re not bad when they’re threatened and in a corner. My tip for relegation is Mallorca. Away win.
EA: X. While I don’t think Alavés are getting any crypto out of this, I’d be surprised if there’s no behind the scenes incentives for the hosts to at least prevent Cadiz from winning. The visitors are terrible at scoring, so that shouldn’t be difficult anyway. Tense draw. Won’t be pretty, and I believe that Cadiz will end up going down.
- Granada (16th) vs Espanyol (13th). 21/5/ 20:00
PB: 1. There’s not much to analyse here. Unless Espanyol have received something under the table, it’s a home in and another season in the top flight for Graná. But Granada need to win to make sure. They will.
EA: 1. Hard to disagree. Coach Karanka has brought some fresh air to the hosts, who have looked a lot more lively and more offensively inspired since he arrived. Easy home win.
- Osasuna (9th) vs Mallorca (17th) 21/5/ 20:00
PB: 1. Mallorca saved themselves at the death last week in dramatic fashion against Rayo, but that’s the point, surely? Their away record (9 points) away from home this season is very poor, and Osasuna are nobody’s fools. They’re just not the kind of team to lie down and allow Mallorca to win this, whatever the circumstances. For me it’s a home win and adios to Mallorca. Sorry.
EA: X. I already tipped Cadiz to go down, based on two draws, one in Vitoria and this one in Pamplona. Another match not recommended for the faint of heart, but in any case I do see Mallorca earning a point here and bidding Cadiz goodbye thanks to their face-to-face average. Tough way of going down, by the way.
- Barcelona (2nd) vs Villarreal (7th). 21/5/ 22:00
PB: X. What a schizo season for Villarreal, and it looks like ending in tears. The only hope they have of European football next season is the fact that Athletic, their nearest and dearest points-wise, must visit Sevilla. I can’t see Barça being massively motivated for this, and it might end in a draw. Villarreal will then have to rely on a favour from Sevilla.
EA: 2. The hosts are now at a point in which it’s a lot better to finish this season once and for all. Too many decisions to be made in the short term, and these last few meaningless matches have become a nuisance for Xavi and the players alike. Too many rumours, not enough cash and a mountain of office work to be able to overcome the huge limitations the club suffers because of their financial mess. I see Villarreal winning this one easily, a few boos for Xavi and the team from the 30k supporters at the Camp Nou and, in summary, an underwhelming end of the season for Barcelona. It could have been much worse, indeed, but there’s still a mountain to climb for them to recover their spot in European football. It will be a long summer…
- Real Sociedad (6th) vs Atlético Madrid (3rd). 22/5/ 22:00
PB: 1. Nothing hanging on this one, but since I’ll be there I hope the hosts can get one over Simeone and crew, who look to be playing out their end-of-season dog-days now. Although it’s not in Simeone’s nature to relax, Real Sociedad will want to reward their long-suffering fans with some more goals, after the rare luxury of three against Cádiz. They’re looking good now, and their win last week at Villarreal was impressive. Home win and 5th spot (again) this season.
EA: 1. Atleti disconnected from their season since they lost to Manchester City a couple of months ago, and they simply turned it on again for a couple of matches to make sure they would play Champions League football next season. Can’t see them trying hard on Sunday and, as Phil mentions, the hosts really like a win vs Atleti whenever the chance is there.
- Sevilla (4th) vs Athletic (8th). 22/5/ 22:00
PB: X. It’s not hard to predict. Athletic (more settled now it looks as though Marcelino will stay – but Iñigo Martinez?) will go for it but that’s a bit risky at Sevilla, despite their relative disinterest in this fixture. Betis can’t catch them (due to the head-to-head) but just in case they’ll manage a draw, frustrating the Basques’ Conference League hopes and finishing on a stale note – but in the Champions League place nevertheless.
EA: 1. I still believe that Sevilla will bid coach Lopetegui a decent farewell with a win in his last match at the helm. Of course they have lost all the brilliance they showed last season, but they still got the results they needed to finish in the top four. And Athletic are almost as bad at scoring as their Guipuzcoano neighbours. Tecatito Corona on the scoresheet and Mr Alvarez defeating Mr Ball by one single point in the aggregate Quiniela this season.
Phil Ball: 67/140
Eduardo Alvarez: 65/140