The story of the season, Barcelona’s title aside, has to be Getafe. We’ve made fun quite often of his reduced set of followers, half empty stadium, bizarre decision-making in hirings and firings. But the fact is that coach Bordalas has put together such a competitive side that even though you’ll hardly fall in love with their tactics, watching them play is strangely addictive. Can they beat Sevilla and Valencia, much bigger and well funded clubs, for the fourth spot? That’s the most interesting subplot in these last four matches.
Shall we? Let’s start. Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win. New gimmick: we’ll highlight must-watch matches, and no, they’re not Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico ones, at least this week.
- Athletic de Bilbao (7th) vs Alavés (8th): 1. (Sat, 13:00)
This is fun. Both could aspire to a top-six finish, are more entertaining to watch than their reputation says and the stadium, the new San Mames, always makes matches a bit more appealing. Athletic wins this with Williams on the scoresheet, as Alaves’ club management grows increasingly frustrated with the poor end of the season. They had a Europa League spot way too close just a month ago.
- Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Valladolid (17th): 1. (Sat, 16:15)
I have to admit that I expected Atleti to give up after their defeat at the Camp Nou, and they didn’t. In fact, Atleti’s numbers this season are extraordinary, once you take out their head to head vs Barcelona and Real Madrid, and their terrible evening in Juventus. This has been an extremely consistent season for Simeone’s team, and it’s a shame that their difference makers did not show up in the biggest matches.
If they keep playing like they have, this should be an easy home win.
- Leganés (12th) vs Celta (16th): 2. (Sat, 18:30)
After four months without an away win, I’m thinking this is the time for Celta to pull one out of the hat. Aspas’ comeback has invigorated the team, but they’re far from safe, and they’ll have to make an extra effort to defeat Leganes. The hosts are playing for nothing at this point, but they always compete, even though they haven’t won in their last four. Celta will want it more.
- Barcelona (1st) vs Levante (15th): 1. (Sat, 20:45)
Barcelona could become title winners on Saturday if results go their way, but their advantage is so clear that whether they win LaLiga this weekend or the next is irrelevant. With a huge Champions League semi-final just days away, we’ll see another B team by Valverde. Even Alba has been rested of late, even though the Azulgrana don’t really have an alternative for the diminutive fullback.
Can Levante get a result at the Camp Nou facing Barcelona’s bench? Nope, don’t think so. If you haven’t followed Levante this season, pay attention to the Commander Morales, in his best year ever as a scorer in LaLiga. Fast as they come.
- Valencia (6th) vs Eibar (13th): 1. (Sun- 12:00)
After four consecutive wins, Valencia lost to Atletico at the Wanda, stopping the impressive progression that has taken them to the competition for the fourth Champions League spot. That objective now looks hard, as both Getafe and Sevilla would need to drop at least three points more than Valencia in the last 12, but hope is still there. Eibar, already safe, should not bother them much on Sunday. Gameiro will score.
- Girona (18th) vs Sevilla (5th): 2. (Sun- 14:00)
Yes, the once exciting Girona now look bound for the Segunda, as Eusebio seems to have lost control over the team. When the season started, this column warned that their squad was much less talented than last year’s, but that wasn’t the only, nor the biggest problem for the hosts, who have looked disorganised, hesitant and lacking the confidence they displayed at the Santiago Bernabeu, for instance.
Sevilla sound like the wrong team to have as a visitor now, as they are still competing for the Champions League and look energetic after their win over Betis. Pablo Sarabia on the scoresheet, Girona one step closer to relegation after this one.
- Real Sociedad (11th) vs Getafe (4th): 2. (Sun- 16:15)
In a rare moment, Real Sociedad left Anoeta’s pitch booed by their fans after their loss to Villarreal. It’s hard to find motivation when the season feels almost over and with no incentives, but the team has been lacking punch for a while. “I understand, we lost and the display was not acceptable”, said coach Imanol after the match. This has been the case for most of the season, as the hosts are the sixth worst home side with 21 points from a potential 51. You don’t get to the top six spots if you play that poorly at home.
The problem for the home side, promising as they are, is that they host a hungry Getafe, still with the Champions League on their minds. The visitors have the attitude the home side lacks and are on a roll, so I foresee another round of boos for the home side and another week of excitement for the Getafenses.
- Villarreal (14th) vs Huesca (19th): 1. (Sun – 18:30)
After all the struggle and the missed opportunities during January and February, Villarreal finally looks like the team they should have been for most of the season. Three consecutive wins have taken them out of the relegation zone, the last one even with a goal by Gerard Moreno, a footballer who has looked under the spell of black magic for most of the season. But the feelgood factor comes from Santi Cazorla, who looked done as a player for two years and who has overcome such a terrible string of injuries that it’s invigorating to watch him play. He’s led the team out of trouble: at the beginning of the season it seemed as though Villarreal were doing him a favour, and now it’s him repaying their faith.
For Sunday, Villarreal have organised a special set of actions to get the stadium full and generate the right atmosphere to win the match and leave the relegation battle behind. Can’t see how Huesca can get a result there.
- Rayo Vallecano (20th) vs Real Madrid (3rd): 1. (Sun – 20:45)
If everything works out, LigaFever will travel the eight kilometres that separate our humble home to Vallecas to watch this one live. Rayo have dropped to bottom of the table under Paco Jemez, but it would be unfair to blame him for this. The squad’s talent is minimal, and to add insult to injury their best player, Raul de Tomás, won’t play on Sunday because one of those mean clauses, as he’s on loan from Real Madrid. That said, as Zidane’s casting continues, it’s become harder and harder to see any recognisable identity to Real Madrid’s play, so why not a famous win for the Vallecanos, even if they end up relegated anyway? The home side play for their lives, while the visitors are dying for the season to finish.
- Betis (10th) vs Espanyol (9th): 2. (Mon – 21:00)
“Why is this a must watch?”, you may be wondering. Two mid-table teams which started off very well and have not performed consistently during the season are hardly the stuff that makes you turn on the tv on a Monday night. Well, you have to consider the Morbo factor. Coach Setién is in the hotseat, and after the brutal midweek loss against Levante, it’s impossible not to look forward to the reaction of the Betis faithful in this home game. Since 2019 started, Betis have won 17 of 51 possible points, which shows what a big disappointment the year has been so far, and Setién is never one who gladly takes criticism.
Obviously, if you take a couple of steps back, Setién has done wonders for this Betis team, which at times has played spectacular football in the last two seasons, chalking up memorable wins against Real Madrid, Barcelona and of course Sevilla. They qualified for Europa League last season, reached the semis of the Copa del Rey this year… Not a bad couple of seasons. However, one already knows Setien, and while at their peak his teams are so much fun to watch, their lows are almost depressing. The Betis we’ve seen of late shows such a low motivation that it could be confused with poor fitness, or perhaps it’s both.
On the opposite bench, coach Rubi shares a few things with Setien. Ball possession and classy players are also a must for him, although he is nowhere as arrogant as the Betis manager. In this case I’m going to back Wu Lei, who looks better with each match. He could become a thing next season, for sure.
Last week: 3/10 (30%)
Season: 116/280 (40%)
- Athletic de Bilbao (7th) vs Alavés (8th):
- Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Valladolid (17th):
- Leganés (12th) vs Celta (16th):
- Barcelona (1st) vs Levante (15th):
- Valencia (6th) vs Eibar (13th):
- Girona (18th) vs Sevilla (5th):
- Real Sociedad (11th) vs Getafe (4th):
- Villarreal (14th) vs Huesca (19th):
- Rayo Vallecano (20th) vs Real Madrid (3rd):
- Betis (10th) vs Espanyol (9th):