Final Champions League spot the focus on La Liga Match-Day 37

Athletic Bilbao vs Celta Vigo

Estadio San Mames Barria, Bilbao

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

Celta Vigo head into this Sunday’s clash with Athletic Club in 14th place but despite that they are only 3 points above the relegation zone and defeat here would set up a nervy final day. They face an Athletic side that is hoping to clinch 7th place and Europa League football. They are currently in that position but three sides are only three points behind them so they still have work to do.

Most of the focus here will be on Celta though. The Galicians must have thought they’d basically done enough to secure survival when they beat a much weakened Barcelona side last time out. However wins for Valladolid and Levante mean the pressure is still very much on heading into this match although a final day home game with already relegated Rayo means they should get the job done there if it comes to it.

Athletic didn’t do them any favours by losing away to Valladolid last time out. The Basques remain in pole position to secure Spain’s final European place though despite that loss. They’ll certainly be glad to get back on home soil here where they are much stronger and they’d rather not end up in a position where they end up needing a result at Sevilla on the final day.

Overall, Athletic do look like much the more likely winners. They’ve been very solid at home since appointing Gaizka Garitano in the autumn and head into this unbeaten in 13 home league games. They’ve won 6 of their last 9 at San Mames in La Liga and it has very much been a season of two halves for the Basque giants.

Celta are in decent form but it has still been their home results that have ensured they’ve pulled out of the relegation zone. They’ve won their last 4 at Balaidos but have been far less convincing on the road. They’ve not won away since December with just 4 points from their 11 away games since then.

Only Rayo Vallecano have picked up fewer points on the road this season than Celta Vigo. Fran Escriba deserves some credit for turning their fortunes around with a large amount of help from in-form talisman Iago Aspas. However Escriba hasn’t found the cure for their away day blues and they’ve failed to score in 5 of their last 7 road games in the Spanish top flight.

Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla

Estadio Wanda Metrapolitano, Madrid

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

This Sunday’s clash at the Wanda Metropolitano sees two sides who suffered heavy defeats in surprising circumstances last time out meet. Atletico Madrid still need just a point to secure a 2nd place finish and top spot in Madrid for the second season running. Sevilla still have 4th on their minds but they have to better Getafe’s result on Sunday to have any chance of getting it now.

That’s a direct result of a humiliating 3-0 home loss to Leganes last time out at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. That has left them in this difficult situation where they need a result here just to stand any chance of remaining in the race for 4th, a position they’ve spent much of this season in. Joaquin Caparros hasn’t had the same impact in a caretaker capacity this time around and the club has some big decisions to make over the summer following a string of coaching appointments that haven’t really paid off.

Atletico Madrid are another club with a big summer ahead of them. They are set to lose a number of players who have been regular fixtures during what has been a brilliant decade for the club. They may face a fight to hold on to star assets such as Saul and Antoine Griezmann too after a tough season where they’ve been on the wrong end of some surprisingly one-sided scorelines.

The latest was a 3-0 defeat at Espanyol last time out but they look capable of bouncing back here. This will be the final home game for Diego Godin, a legendary figure at the club and Atleti will want to give him a good send-off. Ensuring they finish above Real Madrid again would be a pretty good way of doing that.

Atleti’s home record has remained strong all season despite a few problems on the road. They’ve won an impressive 83% of their home league games this term. Even champions Barcelona can’t match their average of 2.61 points per game in front of their own fans so it’s a formidable task that Sevilla are faced with here as they look to keep their top four hopes alive.

They missed Ever Banega badly last time out and with the Argentine suspended again here, it’s hard to see them getting much control of this game in midfield. Sevilla come into this one having lost 3 of their last 4 and they’ve lost 50% of their away league games this season.

Overall, it’s hard to see them getting a result at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Barcelona vs Getafe

Estadio Camp Nou, Barcelona

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

Barcelona return to action this Sunday in La Liga with the unenviable task of trying to pick themselves up after a humiliating night in Europe. Getafe are the opponents and they will certainly be up for this one given they have the potential to secure Champions League qualification this weekend.

They will do that if they can match the result of Sevilla and better that of Valencia. That won’t be easy given they are up against the champions but they are very much in pole position for 4th place now after victory over Girona last time out. They were hoping that Ernesto Valverde would field another weakened team here but that looks unlikely now after what happened in Liverpool on Tuesday.

For the 4th time in 3 seasons, Barcelona suffered a heavy away defeat in Europe. Valverde may be on course to record back-to-back domestic doubles but his job could still be on the line on the basis of two incredibly damaging results in two years. Having spurned a 4-1 1st Leg advantage to exit the Champions League in Rome last year, Barcelona let a 3-0 lead slip to go out against Liverpool this time around, ensuring their primary season target of winning Europe’s premier club competition would end in failure.

Despite that, they have been by some distance the best team in Spain again with a 9 point advantage at the top heading into this game. They’ll be hungry to at least get back to winning ways with a Copa del Rey Final still to come and they should have the beating of this Getafe side at Camp Nou.

Barca have won 9 in a row at home in all competitions while Getafe approach this game having won just once in 10 away games. They’ve had a brilliant season but they have tended to come up short against the very top sides, with just 2 points so far from their 7 games against last season’s top four.

They are sure to defend deep here and with the second best defensive record in the division, Barcelona will have to work to break them down, however once again Leo Messi is likely to be a difference maker.

Real Betis vs Huesca

Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

Huesca have just two games left as a top flight club following their relegation last weekend. However there is still a greater sense of crisis around Real Betis heading into this game. The Seville club are in poor form with their fans having turned against their coach and there could be another toxic atmosphere at the Benito Villamarin here.

Quique Setien has been linked with the Barcelona job but Betis fans would be quite glad to see the back of him. There were loud chants for him to go again after their most recent home game, a 1-1 draw with Espanyol. That was actually the only point that Betis have collected in their last 5 league games and they’ve slipped down to 13th and out of European contention as a result. Despite assurances from the board, it now seems almost inevitable that Setien will leave this summer.

Huesca meanwhile can now start planning their path back to the Primera Division. They’ve competed admirably this season in their debut top flight campaign and have managed to at least build more of a local fanbase having historically had very few supporters even in their own area. However the wheels did come off last weekend, as they were hammered 6-2 at home by Valencia, a result which sealed their relegation.

They don’t really have the defensive qualities required to park the bus here and frustrate Betis which can be an effective strategy against Setien’s possession-based approach. They are likely to have a bit of a go and 61% of their away league games this season have seen both teams score. Some of their football has been good but ultimately they’ve not had quite enough quality to extend their top flight stay beyond a season.

Betis have also looked increasingly vulnerable defensively in recent weeks. They’ve gone 9 matches without a clean sheet heading into this and have at times been really opened up even by struggling sides with their recent 4-0 defeat against Levante a major low-point in a difficult season. They have scored in 89% of their home games though and should have the tools to break down this Huesca defence.

Girona vs Levante

Estadio Municipal de Montilivi, Girona

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

This is a simply massive football match at the bottom of La Liga. It sees Girona in 18th take on Levante in 16th with three points separating the two sides. The Catalans could be relegated on Sunday if they lose and a few other results go against them but defeat is simply not an option as Eusebio’s side aim to claw themselves out of the bottom three.

It’s 7 defeats in 8 matches heading into this one for Girona with the latest coming at Getafe last time out. They did at least win their most recent home game against Sevilla having gone months without tasting victory at Montilivi prior to that. Three points here would move them onto 40 and above Levante on head-to-head but it’s looking quite likely now that it may take more than 40 to stay up.

Levante meanwhile know that victory here would guarantee their survival. They may have thought they’d done enough when they won another six-pointer against Rayo Vallecano last weekend but a few other results went against them to ensure there is still plenty of pressure on them heading into this match.

The result isn’t an easy one to call here. Girona have a poor home record but Levante have lost 9 of their last 11 away and with the stakes so high, it may just be a case of who handles the pressure better. It does though look like a game that has the potential to serve up a few goals.

56% of Girona’s home league games this season have seen both teams score. They have a couple of genuine goal threats in the shape of Cristhian Stuani and Portu. The former is going through a bit of a poor spell in front of goal but still has 18 for the season, the fourth best record in La Liga. Portu has chipped in with some vital goals in recent weeks though. With 4 in his last 9, backing Portu to score anytime could be worth a punt in this one.

Levante meanwhile are always worth a watch with La Liga’s 4th best goalscoring record but 2nd worst defensive record. They’ve scored twice or more in 6 of their last 8 league outings but it still hasn’t been enough to steer them away from danger as they’ve been leaking goals at the other end. They have enough quality in midfield with the likes of Jose Campana to open up this Girona defence but you can never fully count on their back four to keep it tight at the other end.

Rayo Vallecano vs Real Valladolid

Estadio de Vallecas, Madrid

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

This Sunday’s clash in La Liga sees Rayo Vallecano play their first game since their relegation to the Segunda Division was confirmed. Real Valladolid are desperately trying to avoid the same fate and they could potentially secure their survival if they can win this game and Levante do them a favour against Girona.

Two priceless home wins over the past few weeks have ensured they head into the final two games just outside of the relegation zone. They beat Athletic 1-0 last time out at the Jose Zorrilla thanks to a goal from Waldo Rubio. Their final game is against top four hopefuls Valencia though so they’ll see this as a better chance to get the win that would move them past 40 points and potentially to safety.

Rayo Vallecano meanwhile saw their hopes disappear with a heavy 4-1 loss at Levante last time out. They’d impressively beaten Real Madrid just before that to give new hope to their survival push but this won’t be the huge six pointer it might have been. Paco Jemez’s side have nothing to play for now but pride although they’ll be keen to try to avoid the wooden spoon with a one point advantage on bottom club Huesca heading into this game.

The bookies make Valladolid the clear favourites. They clearly will be the more motivated side but in terms of attacking quality they are quite limited. They’ve only scored 0.83 goals per game this season in La Liga and are the lowest scorers in the division. 7 defeats and only 1 win from their 10 away games so far in 2019 also suggests they may struggle to get the win they so badly need here.

Rayo have been in decent form at home. They’ve not lost any of their last 4 league games in Vallecas, taking 8 points. Even heading into the Real Madrid game, their relegation looked effectively confirmed but they still pulled a performance out of the bag and there’s no reason why they can’t do likewise here.

Rayo average 1.17 points per home game this season and have only lost 3 of their last 12 at Vallecas. That’s not a bad record for a side that has been relegated with two games to spare. Valladolid have more points but in truth have shown less quality in midfield or up top this season with a few edgy 1-0 wins getting them to this point.

Valencia vs Deportivo Alves

Estadio Mestalla, Valencia

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

A bad week for Spanish teams in Europe ended with Valencia’s Europa League elimination on Thursday. That means their only route into next season’s Champions League is now via La Liga and they have a lot of work to do. They need to win this Sunday’s game against Alaves to ensure they are still in the hunt for 4th heading into the final day.

Marcelino’s men racked up six goals in a convincing win at Huesca last weekend but they still trail Getafe by 3 points heading into this match-day. With Getafe at Camp Nou, Valencia have an excellent opportunity to leapfrog them here and they can’t afford any more slip-ups having endured a tough few weeks which has seen them lose 4 of their last 5 matches in all competitions.

Alaves meanwhile have gone nearly two months without a win and have slipped down to 10th as a result. They still have an outside shot of finishing 7th but they really need to win here to retain any realistic hopes of snatching a Europa League place. It has been a fantastic season for the Basque club but it is ending on a bit of a sour note with coach Abelardo’s departure already confirmed after he rejected the club’s offer of a new deal.

Their demise suggests they will struggle to get anything here. A return of just 3 points from their last 8 league games is poor by anyone’s standards not just that of a side who was in the running for Champions League qualification prior to that run. They were never likely to have enough quality to stay in the hunt for 4th but there will be some disappointment that they’ve slipped right down to mid-table.

Valencia do have some players to bring in should they wish to freshen things up following defeat to Arsenal. The likes of Carlos Soler and Santi Mina may be introduced having only featured on the bench against the Gunners. Mina was in form last weekend bagging a brace as Valencia cruised to victory at Huesca and they should have enough in reserve to bounce back from European defeat here.

Los Che had gone 20 games unbeaten at the Mestalla before recent setbacks against Eibar and Arsenal but there’s little about Alaves right now that suggests they won’t get the job done here.

Villarreal vs Eibar

Estadio de la Ceramica, Villarreal

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

Villarreal looked to have all but secured their safety when they recorded three straight league wins in April but they still have work to do heading into the final two games. With a difficult game at Getafe on the final day, they’ll be hungry for three points here against mid-table Eibar in order to avoid any last minute drama in this survival scrap.

The Yellow Submarine have been the great under-achievers of this Spanish football season with enough quality in their ranks to suggest they should be pushing for Europe rather than fighting for their lives. They are only three points above the bottom three though having been held to a draw by bottom club Huesca in their most recent home game prior to defeat at the Bernabeu.

Eibar in theory haven’t got much to play for but that hasn’t stopped them grinding out two excellent results in recent weeks. They head into this one following back-to-back 1-0 wins over Valencia and Real Betis. They retain a mathematical chance of getting 7th place and European football but it’s out of their hands and looks highly unlikely even if they win this.

The bookies make Villarreal the clear favourites here but there’s plenty of reason to question their ability to get the job done. Their home record this season is very poor for a side with the quality they boast in the middle of the park with just a 22% win ratio at the Ceramica in La Liga this term. Even during their recent revival, it has largely been their away results that have pushed them towards safety and it’s just 1 clean sheet in 15 home league games for them heading into this.

That should offer Eibar plenty of encouragement. They’ve not been winning many away games this season but they have been competing on their travels. They’ve avoided defeat in 6 of their last 9 road games. The 3 games they lost included narrow single goal defeats in tough matches at Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao so there’s plenty of reason to think they can go to the Ceramica and make a real game of this.

Villarreal will be nervous and only twice this season have they won a home league game by more than a single clear goal.

Leganes vs Espanyol

Estádio Municipal de Bartaque, Leganes

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

There’s not a great deal at stake here as Leganes play host to Espanyol this Sunday in the penultimate round of fixtures in La Liga. Lega have secured their safety already which is an achievement in itself and it has been a great season for the South Madrid club. Espanyol meanwhile do still have an outside chance of finishing 7th which would mean European qualification but they are relying on favours from elsewhere.

Both sides come into this match after very impressive wins that suggest they are in no mood to coast towards the summer break. Espanyol cruised to a 3-0 home win against Atletico Madrid with Borja Iglesias netting a brace. He has proved an inspired signing with 15 goals for the club in La Liga this term, over a third of Espanyol’s total. They are 3 points behind 7th placed Athletic Bilbao now and they’ll have one eye on how the Basques get on in their game on Sunday.

Leganes are merely focused on trying to finish as high as possible. They’d gone 5 without a win heading into their trip to play Sevilla last time out. Few gave them much chance against the top four chasing Andalusians but Leganes put in a stunning performance to win 3-0. Martin Braithwaite and Youssef En-Nesyri were both on target and Lega would actually move above Espanyol with victory here which would give them a chance of finishing the season in the top half.

While both sides were in good touch in front of goal last time out, that hasn’t really been the norm all season and a low scoring game looks likely here. 10 of Leganes’ last 12 games have produced under 2.5 goals in total. They rank in the bottom three for goals scored this term but are amongst the best five sides when it comes to keeping goals out.

They are fairly consistent in their approach and won’t throw caution to the wind here just because they are the favourites. Espanyol have been involved in a few higher scoring games of late but they only average one goal per game away from home. They don’t have an enormous amount of creativity in midfield which suggests they will struggle to break down what is basically a Leganes back five.

Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid

Estadio Municipal de Anoeta, San Sebastian

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7:30pm

Real Madrid’s miserable season is stuttering towards its conclusion and they play their final away game in La Liga against Real Sociedad this Sunday. The Basques are still in the running for 7th place and will be targeting victory as they look to catch local rivals Athletic Club and snatch that final European place.

It’s a sad reflection on their season, that the only thing to have brought Real Madrid fans much cheer of late was Barcelona’s collapse on Merseyside this week. Having won the last three Champions League crowns, Los Blancos still see themselves as the kings of Europe but they have been distinctly second rate this season in Spain and they look set to finish as second best, even in their own city with Atletico hoping to clinch 2nd place on Sunday.

It has been a mixed season for Real Sociedad and while it does look unlikely that they will be able to make Europe, they do take good form into this having won their last two matches. They won a Basque derby at Alaves last time out and they do have a decent track record when it comes to toppling the big guns at the Anoeta.

The bookies make Real Madrid the favourites but there’s very little reason to fancy them here. They’ve been abysmal away from home since the return of Zinedine Zidane, taking just 2 points and scoring just 2 goals in their last 4 away league games. That sequence includes a hopeless display in defeat at 2nd bottom Rayo Vallecano a fortnight ago.

They also have some injury concerns heading into this match. Their only real star performer this season has been Karim Benzema who is a doubt, while Sergio Ramos is also struggling with a knock. Zinedine Zidane has taken the opportunity to give some fringe players a go, with the likes of Gareth Bale not even making the subs bench last time out against Sociedad, a pretty clear message to the Welshman that Real are keen to move him on this summer.

With something to play for, Sociedad will be the more motivated team and in any case they’ll be hungry to record a win over Real Madrid. A sequence of untimely injuries hampered their push for Europe but with a few men back, they have been more like their old selves over the past fortnight.




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