La Liga: Penultimate Weekend Crucial In Deciding The Winner
The Spanish BBVA Primera Liga could in theory be decided on Sunday if results go the way of FC Barcelona, while at the other end of the table the battle to avoid relegation is tenser than ever.
Barca’s superior goal difference means they could theoretically be crowned champions by 7pm if they win their home game against local rivals Espanyol, while Atletico lose and Real Madrid fail to win.
The reality is likely to be somewhat different and everything points to the season going into a cliff-hanging last game as Atletico visit bottom of the table Levante, who are already guaranteed second division football for next season, while Real Madrid are at home to a Valencia side looking to end a disappointing campaign as soon as possible.
Barca have once again had a week to prepare for their game and coach Luis Enrique can expect another tough encounter against a side who used extremely physical tactics to draw 0-0 in the first meeting between the two sides this season.
Espanyol have no love for their neighbors and will give everything to stop them winning the title in a game which promises to be difficult for referee Gil Manzano to control.
Atletico and Real Madrid both played tense European matches in midweek, but have so far not paid any physical price for their efforts.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone still under suspension will watch from the stands as his side visit Levante and Atletico will make some changes to their side with Tiago Cardoso available again following injury.
Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane will once again have to make a call on the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo, who again looked below his best in midweek, Karim Benzema and Casimiro, who both missed out the 1-0 Champions League win at home to Manchester City on Wednesday.
He will take comfort from the fact that the Real Madrid squad has shown time and again it has the depth to overcome absences through injury.
The rest of Sunday’s drama comes in the battle to avoid relegation where three teams (Getafe, Sporting Gijon and Rayo Vallecano) are tied of 35 points with Granada on 36 and Deportivo la Coruna not out of danger on 39.
Getafe’s home game against Sporting Gijon will probably be decisive with the loser almost certain to join Levante in the second division.
Rayo Vallecano travel to play Real Sociedad, while Granada will hope to take advantage of tired legs in Sevilla after the home side qualified for their third Europa League final on Thursday night.
Meanwhile Deportivo face Villarreal, who suffered semi-final heartbreak on Thursday, but are assured of a fourth place finish in the league.
Other key matches see Athletic Club and Celta continue their duel for fifth with Athletic away to Las Palmas and Celta at home to Malaga and the only match with nothing at stake sees Eibar at home to Betis.