The race for Europe in La Liga: Three huge games at the top 

This weekend throws up a ‘super’ matchday in La Liga, one which could prove decisive in terms of qualification for next season’s European competitions. 

With two thirds of the season now played, we’ve reached the business end of the season. Coming up next is a spectacular Matchday 27, with several direct duels between teams near the top of the table, who want to qualify for Europe next season. This weekend, fans can enjoy Valencia vs Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid vs Real Betis and Athletic Club vs Barcelona. 

To clarify how European qualification works, currently has four Champions League tickets to give out to the top four, with fifth place going to the Europa League and sixth to the Conference League. This could change if the Copa del Rey champion is one of the teams already qualified for Europe, as their Europa League slot would go to the sixth-place team and seventh position would then become a Conference League berth. But, since there is no cup winner yet and since it could be a team not in this part of the standings, this scenario is still only a hypothetical. 

Valencia CF vs Real Madrid: Two clubs with two different missions  

One of the blockbuster games of this super matchday will take place at Mestalla on Saturday March 2nd at 21:00 CEST. Ruben Baraja’s Valencia side are currently looking to get back into Europe, as the club hasn’t been in continental competition since March 2020. This is their fourth consecutive season out of Europe but, with this squad filled with homegrown youngsters and with the support of a fanbase spurring them on, there is confidence that this drought could soon end. Los Che are in the mix but close to Real Betis, Real Sociedad and Las Palmas, all of whom are chasing every possible point in order to sneak into Europe next year. 

This weekend, though, they’ll have to go up against leaders Real Madrid, who do not want to give their pursuers a chance of catching them. Carlo Ancelotti’s side will arrive in Valencia after winning a very difficult match against Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu last weekend. He knows that every matchday in which Los Blancos do not slip up, their rivals for the title will grow disheartened.  

Atletico Madrid vs Real Betis: Holding on to their tickets 

Diego Simeone’s side have stumbled on a number of occasions in recent matches, but they still hold fourth position, which entitles them to Champions League football next season. With Athletic Club close behind, every matchday is a test for Los Colchoneros and every three points they take brings relief. Their task until the end of the season will be to ensure that the Basques do not manage to catch them. 

Real Betis, meanwhile, arrive at the Estadio Civitas Metropolitano for the game this Sunday March 3rd, at 16:15 CEST, on the up. They have gone five games without defeat, have overtaken Real Sociedad in the standings and now hold a place for next year’s Conference League. Despite the loss due to injury of Isco, their best player this season, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have not given up and now have a double mission: to hold on to their place in Europe and to try make the teams above them nervous, just in case one of them slips up.  

Athletic Club vs FC Barcelona: A key match in the Champions League race 

This duel will take place on Sunday March 3rd at 21:00 CEST and will be a rematch of the Copa del Rey quarter-final tie, in which Los Rojiblancos knocked out Xavi Hernandez’s side. Ernesto Valverde’s squad have been playing well this season, but have left some points on the table in recent weeks and haven’t, therefore, managed to take advantage of Atletico Madrid’s own slip-ups. This weekend, they will want to repeat the result from the cup tie, as victory over Barcelona would move them to within five points of Los Blaugrana and seriously enhance their top four hopes.  

It won’t be easy, though. Xavi’s side are the in-form team in the competition, with four wins and a draw from the last five games, and they still hope to catch Real Madrid or at least finish second. Their 4-0 thrashing of Getafe has boosted their morale ahead of this trip to San Mames to face a team that, three days earlier, will have the most important game of their season in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals against Atletico. Taking advantage of their opponents’ fatigue will be one of Barca’s trump cards, as they look to extend the gap to fifth place and tighten their grip on their own Champions League ticket. 


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Tags Athletic Club Atletico Madrid Barcelona Real Betis Real Madrid Valencia
La Liga - Club News