It’s an intriguing weekend, this one. LaLiga has organised the relevant matches in two groups that kick off at the same time: one, on Saturday at 16:15, includes the matches that will determine who plays Champions League and Europa League football next season. The second cluster, on Saturday at 20:45, groups all teams in the relegation zone – and yes, Girona still has a minimal chance of staying up, but involves such a bizarre scenario that I believe that LaLiga has scheduled matches this way out of pure good manners. The remaining matches, completely meaningless, have been thrown around the weekend to fill the gaps for China – i.e. early kickoff times.
And before we begin, one last comment: get ready for the silliest season in ages. Real Madrid need to buy and sell big, Barcelona should do a similar team revamp while they try to understand the reason behind those awful away performances, and Atletico are losing a starter a day, so they should react as well. That will generate such a domino effect in LaLiga that we could beat every season in recent memory in terms of rumours and smoke screens. It will be a long summer…
Shall we? Let’s start. Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win. Must-watch matches in red.
- Levante (15th) vs Atlético de Madrid (2nd): 1. (Sat, 13:00)
In a quick count, at least five starters will leave Atletico this summer. The fact that Griezmann taped that video last year and apparently wanted to do another one to explain his decision shows his poor judgement. Many Atleti fans are disappointed he’s leaving when they’ve been called for the most significant decisions. In his case, Levante will win comfortably, but the big question mark is for Eduardo: will they stay or not?
- Espanyol (9th) vs Real Sociedad (8th): 1. (Sat, 16:15)
These are the challengers for Athletic’s 7th spot, and I favour Espanyol, who started the season extremely well and in a very efficient manner, to then spend four months playing like amateurs to suddenly come back firing on all cylinders at the end of the season. This team and their coach have talent to do more, let’s see what happens with the property next year. I don’t particularly like Borja Iglesias, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his great season, second best Spanish striker behind the also Galicean Iago Aspas.
Real Sociedad’s Imanol keeps promoting youth team players, which will pay off for them as it’s usually done in the past.
- Getafe (5th) vs Villarreal (14th): 1. (Sat, 16:15)
Despite their improvement in the last month or so, I can’t see Villarreal defeating Getafe, and they would even need to find some motivation to make the host’s life difficult. The happiest piece of news this week is that Santi Cazorla will be back to play with Spain next week, a surprising decision by Luis Enrique in which he obviously values Cazorla’s work rate. So glad he’s come back this well…
- Valladolid (16th) vs Valencia (4th): 2. (Sat, 16:15)
Valencia has to win to retain the 4th spot, while the now relaxed Valladolid have starred in one of the closest escapes in years. The hosts have taken three days off this week and will largely field a B side, so I can’t see how Valencia not win this one.
- Sevilla (6th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (7th): 2. (Sat, 16:15)
Last match in the fight for Europa League spots. If Sevilla win, and that sounds possible, even likely, Athletic may lose the 7th spot to Real Sociedad or to Espanyol, which would bring a more interesting team into the fold than the predictable, boring, obsolete Athletic. Let’s root for that while we back Sevilla, clearly the better side.
- Alavés (11th) vs Girona (18th): X. (Sat, 20:45)
Girona’s salvation involves a huge win in Alava – at least 3-0 – and a defeat of Celta at home by a few goals to Rayo, already relegated. Does not sound feasible, but we’ve seen a few strange things during the last few weeks of previous seasons, so why not. The problem is that Girona are the 2nd worst scoring side of LaLiga at one goal per match, and that his top scorer, Stuani, is out injured, so it does look like a tall order for the visitors.
Coach Abelardo will occupy Alaves’ bench for the last time, as he’s leaving the club in the summer. His work during this one and a half seasons has been outstanding, and it’s a shame that the team tailed off a bit during April and May. In any case, Abelardo can leave with his head high.
- Celta (17th) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th): 1. (Sat, 20:45)
The week in Vigo: Boufal and Boudebouz caught by the police while driving small motorbikes for which they had no license. Mor posts a video in which he runs for a few metres and jumps in his home pool; his ankle is supposedly injured and he should avoid all kind of movement. Finally, Sisto decides to eat only fruit for 21 straight days and almost passes out after Thursday’s training session.
Are you surprised it took them 37 matches to avoid relegation with such a talented team? Me neither.
Paco Jemez keeps swearing he’ll be proud to coach Rayo in Segunda. I’m not so sure. A fight over the size of the budget, that’s all it takes for him to find his excuse to leave. Let’s see, although I may have become too cynical.
- Huesca (20th) vs Leganés (13th): 1. (Sat, 20:45)
Yes, I believe that Huesca will finish the season with a win, leaving the last spot and wondering what could have been had they played the first half of the season with the same intensity as the second. Leganes should feel happy for their performance, one more year in the top flight.
- Real Madrid (3rd) vs Betis (10th): 1. (Sun, 12:00)
Before we start, this will be Undiano Mallenco’s last Laliga match ever. He won’t be missed here, I can tell you that.
And speaking about the Santiago Bernabeu, the stadium will bid its farewell to a horrendous season on a noon-kickoff, probably a good thing as the kids that usually fill the stadium on those occasions should cheer things up a bit.
As I was writing this column, I took a look at my twitter feed just in time to see Marco Asensio post a sponsored tweet having a Red Bull during a break. A break from what, Marcus Absentius? A break from the break of a season you’ve had? Really, I’m not in the mood to go through another 90 minutes of Real Madrid players going through the motions while trying to look like they care when they’ve given up on the season months ago. Can’t waste more time trying to guess Zidane’s lineups or, even worse, who will be staying or leaving next season. I’m the one who needs some break time.
Ah, of course they’ll beat Betis. The visitors’ squad possibly cares even less than Real Madrid’s.
- Eibar (12th) vs Barcelona (1st): 1. (Sun, 16:15)
The Barcelona fans on twitter, a surprisingly derisive bunch, have been demanding Valverde’s resignation since the team lost that match in Liverpool. Thank God the socis are a bit more understanding and haven’t made half of that noise in the stadium. That said, with Griezmann’s likely arrival, Valverde needs to know who should stay or go. I don’t think this match will help much, but they have to play it, don’t they?
Decent season by Eibar. If they get a decent striker and change their approach away from home, they could do great things next season.
Last week: 5/10 (50%)
Season: 135/300 (41%)
- Levante (15th) vs Atlético de Madrid (2nd):
- Espanyol (9th) vs Real Sociedad (8th):
- Getafe (5th) vs Villarreal (14th):
- Valladolid (16th) vs Valencia (4th):
- Sevilla (6th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (7th):
- Alavés (10th) vs Girona (18th):
- Celta (17th) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th):
- Huesca (20th) vs Leganés (13th):
- Real Madrid (3rd) vs Betis (10th):
- Eibar (12th) vs Barcelona (1st):