Football: All to Play for on Spain’s Final Day
The Spanish league season reaches its climax on Sunday and, while Real Madrid have already wrapped up the title, there is plenty still to play for at both ends of the table.
Madrid ended Barcelona’s run of three consecutive championships by clinching the 32nd Liga crown of their history with three rounds of games remaining, but Jose Mourinho’s side will still have plenty of motivation for their final game of the season at home to Mallorca.
If they win on Sunday, they will break a new Spanish league record in reaching the 100-point mark — Barcelona holding the record of 99 set in 2009/10.
Meanwhile Barcelona go to Betis on Saturday with Lionel Messi looking to take the “pichichi” award as La Liga’s top scorer. Currently on 50, he is five ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Valencia will finish third and are guaranteed Champions League football again next season, but the remaining European places are still up for grabs.
Two points clear in fourth, Malaga can seal Spain’s final Champions League berth by beating Sporting Gijon at a sold-out La Rosaleda.
The southern side have never featured in Europe’s elite club competition before and defender Jesus Gamez is clear what the objective is.
“We need those three points that will give us glory, everyone involved at this club has dreamed about this moment, the time has come and now we have a fantastic opportunity to get into the Champions League,” he said.
Waiting for any slip-ups will be fifth-placed Atletico Madrid, who are fresh from beating Athletic Bilbao 3-0 to win the Europa League in midweek.
However, unless they win at Villarreal and Malaga fail to win, the capital club will have to settle for defending their trophy in the Europa League next season.
Even unfancied Levante could still grab fourth spot — a position they held for much of the season — if they win at home to Athletic Bilbao and the sides above them all slip up.
Meanwhile, Mallorca and Osasuna — who go to already-relegated Racing Santander — are in contention for a Europa League berth, while Athletic are already certain of returning to the competition having made it through to the Copa del Rey final against Champions League-bound Barcelona.
At the bottom the situation is equally tense with five teams fighting to avoid two relegation positions. Four of those sides have their fate in their own hands, knowing that a win will keep them up.
In-form Zaragoza go to Getafe, Villarreal host Atletico, and Rayo Vallecano and Granada face each other in a tense showdown in Madrid.
But Sporting Gijon need to win in Malaga and hope both Zaragoza and Rayo lose for them to claim an unlikely lifeline.
Zaragoza appeared doomed until a run of seven wins in ten matches revived their hopes and winger Luis Garcia is confident they can get the result they need, especially with a huge travelling support expected in Getafe.
“We can almost touch safety, our support is key, our fans will be important and they will help us,” says Garcia.
Meanwhile, Rayo midfielder Francisco Medina ‘Piti’ has admitted the wait for their game against Granada to arrive has been horrible.
“Sunday’s game is a final with a lot at stake, but we know our fans won’t let us down. Rayo should not be in this position after the season we have had, but we have to prove we are a good team and we are going to do that and make sure we are safe,” he said.
Fixtures (kick-off times GMT)
Real Sociedad v Valencia (1800), Real Betis v Barcelona (2000)
Sunday (all kick-offs 1800 GMT)
Real Madrid versus Mallorca, Getafe versus Zaragoza, Levante versus Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol versus Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano versus Granada, Malaga versus Sporting Gijon, Villarreal versus Atletico, Racing versus Osasuna