Spanish Sides Fight For Europa League Places In La Liga
Matchday 37 of the Spanish season arrives with few issues at stake other than the battle to qualify for next season’s Europa League.
The weekend kicks off on Saturday afternoon with Real Sociedad at home to Leganes, a game which will allow Xabi Prieto to say goodbye to the Real Sociedad supporters as he retires after 14 seasons and over 500 appearances for the club.
With a place in Europe at stake, six matches kick off at the same time. The Madrid derby between Getafe and Atletico Madrid and the Seville derby between Betis and Sevilla are the most attractive games.
Getafe still have a chance of qualifying for Europe after a run of five wins and a draw in their last six matches.
Atletico meanwhile make the short trip south of Madrid after a surprise defeat at home to Espanyol last weekend.
Atletico had asked for the match to be brought forward from Saturday to Friday to give them more time to prepare for next week’s Europa League final in Lyon and it is unlikely coach Diego Simeone is going to risk too many first choice players with a European title up for grabs.
The Seville derby is usually one of the more competitive games of the season and arrives with Betis in fifth place on the table, but still not assured of finishing in that position.
Sevilla are seventh after Wednesday’s 3-2 win at home to Real Madrid, but with just a two-point cushion over Getafe, defeat could still see them miss out on a place in Europe.
Joaquin Caparros has worked a minor miracle since replacing Vincenzo Montella at Sevilla with two wins in two games, but will probably have to rotate his side after midweek action. Betis won the first derby of the season 5-3 in the Sanchez Pizquan Stadium, but this time it is likely to be a lot closer.
Villarreal’s 5-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Camp Nou on Wednesday leaves them still needing a point to assure qualification for the Europa League and they will hope to get that on their visit to already relegated Deportivo la Coruna.
Saturday afternoon also sees a Basque derby between Alaves and Athletic Club Bilbao, while Girona, who can’t qualify for Europe following Sevilla’s midweek win, will face Valencia.
Eibar take on already relegated Las Palmas before Real Madrid entertain Celta Vigo. Real Madrid are 18 points behind Barcelona in the league, but have their sights firmly set on the Champions League final and with Cristiano Ronaldo injured, Zinedine Zidane will once against rotate his side in order to ensure everyone is as fresh as possible for the big game against Liverpool on May 26.
Sunday sees another meaningless game as Espanyol take on Malaga before Barcelona travel to Valencia to face Levante.
Barcelona’s aim is to remain unbeaten for the entire season, but they may find things tougher than expected against a side that has won seven out of nine games since Paco Lopez took over to climb well clear of the relegation zone.