I guess we can now safely say that the relegation battle is almost over. Only Mallorca, in the 18th spot, have a slight chance of dribbling their way out of the Segunda next season. They’re five points behind Celta with 18 points to play, which means that, in order to stay up, they need at least 8-10 points and a terrible end of the season from one of the four following teams: Celta themselves, Alaves, Eibar or Valladolid. The first condition looks really hard, especially because they still have to play Atleti and Sevilla in those last six matches, but they will also face a few teams who are playing for nothing at this point, so that could get them those points they need.
The second condition sounds extremely likely. One of those four teams will get a maximum of four points, no doubts, so they do have a chance if they get at least three wins.
Following Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol would have to win 14-16 points out of 18. We’ve seen amazing resurrections in previous seasons, but this sounds impossible. They’re pretty much down at this point.
So the fun now shifts to the top four, top seven and of course, the title run. More comments on that within each match during this coming weekend:
- Atlético (3rd) vs Mallorca (18th): 1 03/07 22:00
One of the moments of this tournament has to be the look on Diego Simeone’s face as he sees his former star and protégé Antoine Griezmann waiting to get into the Barcelona – Atletico match when there’s only the extra time of the second half left to be played. Who would have thunk that The (mini, in comparison with Lebron’s) Decision would end up like this… Simeone lost the main reference of Atletico’s offense and hasn’t been able to find a new one yet, and Griezmann… we’ll let’s discuss him in the Barcelona match below.
And well, seems like Shannick Carrasco came back to stay! The umpteenth feast of inexplicable VAR decisions ended in a draw between Atleti and Barcelona, and the Belgian forward had a few moments that reminded us of the threatening, fast winger he used to be when he arrived in Madrid. Simeone can’t really compete with the current squad, but if he can get João Felix, Shannick and Marcos Llorente to play together consistently, that should provide enough for Costa or any other forward to get them a top four finish year after year.
On Friday, Atleti still need a win to guarantee their top three and keep Sevilla behind them. Simeone has found the motivation trigger, so they should beat Mallorca. The visitors, without their top scorer Burimir, know full well this is not the match they need to win in order to stay up.
- Celta (17th) vs Betis (13th): 1 04/07 17:00
These two clubs are huge disappointments this season, especially because many of us expected flair and goals galore from both of their talented front lines. Betis managed to cause a stir among their fans in a match with no public, but one can understand their frustration as they look not only lost, but especially disinterested. They were handed their butts by a flying Villarreal, and twitter exploded with thousands of Betis’ fans yelling at their players and the president.
The fact is that Betis play for nothing at this point, and even if they want to save face on Saturday, Celta do need the win to sleep better after their defeat in Mallorca. Can’t see Betis getting going for the rest of the season, honestly.
On a side note, Betis’ Fekir took a swing at the VAR screen after having been sent off. He represented many of us in that bizarre moment.
- Valladolid (14th) vs Alavés (16th): X 04/07 19:30
“Long-distance relationship, happiness for all four”, says a wise proverb in Spanish. These two clubs know that every point they add from now on is gold to leave Mallorca the last relegation spot, so I would not be surprised if this match becomes a non-aggression contest. On top of that, there’s not much these two can offer in terms of scoring flair: 59 goals after 66 matches played between the duo so far speak volumes about their offensive qualities. This will be boring.
- Granada (9th) vs Valencia (10th): X 04/07 22:00
I thought Granada were done, but they defeated Alaves away comfortably.
I thought new coach Voro would infuse Valencia with new energy, but they lost fair and square to Athletic.
I can’t figure out these two teams. With a win, both could aspire to a top seven finish, as they’re only four points behind the struggling Real Sociedad. I guess they’ve been so hard to figure out that they only sensible way out of this is a tie.
- Athletic (8th) vs Real Madrid (1st): X 05/07 14:00
A growing line of thought within the Madridismo camp believes that if these last few matches had been played at the Bernabeu, the team would have lost LaLiga by now. The fact that there’s no public murmuring their disapproval if the team haven’t scored by the 20th minute is indeed good help for the team, but one could think something similar about Barcelona and the Camp Nou. Those two pitches only offer real home field advantage in top level matches. When it’s Getafe, Mallorca or Leganés, fans forget their role as supporters and become extremely demanding parents watching their kids play in the high school league. I can’t see that changing, by the way. It’s now become a fact of life.
Regarding the match, the visitors have won with effort, but with no inspiration, and they will need that in Bilbao. No one on earth would like to ruin Real Madrid’s party more than Raul García, and he looks in fine shape after hitting Valencia hard a couple of days ago. I believe this ends up in a stalemate, with plenty of cards shown and not many goal-scoring chances.
- Espanyol (20th) vs Leganés (19th): 1 05/07 17:00
If Valladolid vs Alaves generates small expectations in terms of goal-scoring, imagine this contest between the bottom two teams of the tournament. They’ve scored 51 goals in 66 matches combined. And the most depressing thing is that it does not really matter who wins this, because it’s almost impossible for any of them to stay up. They’re nine and ten points behind Celta respectively, so this is over. Espanyol are slightly better, so let’s pick them.
- Osasuna (11th) vs Getafe (6th): 2 05/07 19:30
Getafe lost to Real Madrid, but it was evident why they are so hard to beat. Their opponents can never get going, they’re physically overwhelming and they have enough offensive threats to keep your defenders concerned, uneasy. It would be a shame if they can’t make it to the next Europa League, but they need a win on Sunday. If they play like they did on Thursday, Osasuna don’t have a chance, although the hosts don’t care anymore either.
- Villarreal (5th) vs Barcelona (2nd): 1 05/07 22:00
This isn’t as gutsy as you would think. With 16 points our of the last 18, the hosts can beat any side at this point, as their top scorer Gerard Moreno can’t stop scoring.
In the middle of a huge turmoil, Barcelona look frail, weak, unable to get the best out of Messi and sending Griezmann to the darkest section of the bench because the Frenchman “unbalances the team”, according to coach Setien. Is he saying that Barcelona can’t play with a front three because of Griezmann, who’s the hardest working frontman Barcelona have had since I can remember? It’s all so bizarre…
Griezmann’s hiring seems now a gigantic mistake by both the player and the club. Money wasted, and a career that has taken a detour when he looked like he had matured and knew exactly how to influence matches from different positions.
As we discussed in the last quiniela, Setien is leaving at the end of LaLiga and the question is how will he leave. Being the stubborn character he is, I’m pretty sure he’ll want to make some mark, even if there’s just a handful of matches left, so I expect Riqui and Fati starting every match until Suarez and Messi tell Bertomeu that they’ve had enough. They could lose ugly in Villarreal.
- Levante (12th) vs R. Sociedad (7th): 1 06/07 19:30
What an awful end of the season for the Realistas. At least they could defeat bottom of the table Espanyol on Thursday, but it was yet another disappointing display for those used to watching them play champagne football for a good spell of the season. Januzaj is now injured, Odegaard has some physical issues too, and the question is whether coach Imanol can keep pulling youngsters out of his hat.
In any case, I can’t see them winning in Levante. The professional hosts will run the usual nasty match that the visitors hate so much. Easy home win.
- Sevilla (4th) vs Eibar (15th): 1 06/07 22:00
The hosts can’t miss this chance to put pressure on Atletico and keep the on-fire Villarreal three points behind. And well, Eibar need a few points to stay up, but they’ll get those at home in the next couple of matches. And do keep an eye on Sevilla’s Munir. The former Barcelona player, who became too well-known when he was too young, seems to have hit his stride under Lopetegui and is scoring beauties almost every match. Glad that he’s come around after all the noise.
- Atlético (3rd) vs Mallorca (18th):
- Celta (17th) vs Betis (13th):
- Valladolid (14th) vs Alavés (16th):
- Granada (9th) vs Valencia (10th):
- Athletic (8th) vs Real Madrid (1st):
- Espanyol (20th) vs Leganés (19th):
- Osasuna (11th) vs Getafe (6th):
- Villarreal (5th) vs Barcelona (2nd):
- Levante (12th) vs R. Sociedad (7th):
- Sevilla (4th) vs Eibar (15th):