La Liga: Final Champions league spot up for grabs on Match-Day 38

Levante vs Atletico Madrid

Estadio Cuidad de Valencia, Valencia

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @2pm

This Saturday’s clash between Levante and Atletico Madrid kicks off the final weekend action in La Liga. It’s not a game with anything really riding on it. Atleti will finish in 2nd place whatever the outcome here. Levante meanwhile secured survival last weekend and are only playing for their final finishing position.

Atletico Madrid said goodbye to one legend last weekend with Diego Godin’s stay in the Spanish capital coming to an end after the club refused to offer him more than a one year deal. The club were then rocked by Antoine Griezmann’s announcement in midweek that he would be leaving the club this summer having turned down Barcelona twelve months ago. This will therefore be the duo’s final game for the club and it may feel like something of an end of an era for Diego Simeone’s side.

Levante have been a slightly erratic team this season with some fine performances nestled between plenty of less impressive ones. They won a huge relegation six-pointer at Girona last time out to secure survival and avoid what would have been a tense final day. They come into this game having won 3 of their last 4 matches and they’ve scored 4 in each of their last 2 home games so they will fancy they can pose some problems for Atleti.

Atletico Madrid have been the best defensive side in La Liga again this season but there have been signs that their standards have started to slip in recent weeks. They conceded 3 in defeat at Espanyol in their most recent away game and they are a bit short on defensive options with youngster Francisco Montero drafted in to start their most recent match, a home draw with Sevilla. They’ve conceded twice or more in 4 of their last 6 road games in all competitions and that will offer encouragement to a relatively free-scoring Levante side.

Paco Lopez’s men have scored 1.54 goals per game this term on average in La Liga, the 4th best record in the division. They’ve outscored their opponents here by 4 goals but defensively they’ve been weak with only Rayo having let in more.

Espanyol vs Real Sociedad

RCDE Stadium, Barcelona

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @5:15pm

The race for Champions League football will make the headlines on the final Saturday in La Liga but there is a bit of a sub-plot and it involves Espanyol and Real Sociedad who are both hoping to clinch 7th place and Europa League football here. Both sides need to win this match to have any chance. That would move them level on points with Athletic who currently occupy 7th but both Espanyol and Sociedad have superior head-to-head records against Gaizka Garitano’s side which means this could develop into a really significant game if Athletic fall behind at Sevilla.

It has been a strange but ultimately pretty good first season for Rubi at Espanyol. They were flying early on and briefly went 2nd after 11 matches. However a miserable winter followed and Espanyol fell into the bottom six with a relegation battle seeming likely at one point. They responded well though with an 8 game unbeaten run which they take into this game.

As for Real Sociedad, they’ve hovered in mid-table for the majority of a campaign which started with Asier Garitano at the helm and finishes with Imanol Alguacil. The new man has done a decent job of steering them through an injury crisis and they’ve reeled off 3 straight wins to take their fight for European qualification to the final day.

They’d love to pip Basque rivals Athletic to a European place at the death but Espanyol are strong at the RCDE Stadium where they’ve collected 66% of their points this term. Overall it promises to be an open game with a draw no good to either side and goals look likely.

6 of Espanyol’s last 8 matches have seen both teams score. They’ve struggled to rekindle their early season defensive form when they were barely letting in any goals in at home but they have started to offer an increasing threat at the other end. Borja Iglesias has had a brilliant first season with 17 league goals including braces in his last two matches. Espanyol may face a battle to hang onto their top scorer this summer but backing Iglesias to score anytime and end the season on the right note could be well worth a punt here.

Sociedad will pose problems too though. Willian Jose and Mikel Oyarzabal are both in double figures for goals in La Liga this term and they ultimately cruised to a 3-1 win over Real Madrid last time out. They’ve been a good watch for the neutrals too of late with 9 of their last 11 matches seeing goals at each end.

Getafe vs Villarreal

Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Getafe

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @5:15pm

Getafe have been the surprise package of the 2018/19 season in Spain. For them to have a chance of Champions League qualification heading into the final day is pretty remarkable in itself but there will be a tinge of disappointment if they don’t get it now having spent much of the campaign in 4th. They need to better Valencia’s result to make Europe’s premier club competition. The situation is out of their hands but they will be focused on doing their job against Villarreal.

The hosts may feel somewhat unfortunate with how things panned out last weekend. They ended up facing a stronger Barcelona side than might have taken to the field had they progressed in Europe. A 2-0 defeat coupled with Valencia’s win saw them slip to 5th and the bad news is that Valencia are also up against a team with nothing to play for this Sunday now Valladolid are safe.

Villarreal could do their Valencian rivals a favour here but they too secured their safety last time out with a 1-0 win over Eibar. It has been a really poor season for the Yellow Submarine though. They could end up as high as 12th if they win here but even that would be a real disappointment given they’d reeled off five straight top six finishes heading into this campaign.

Overall, the hosts look the more likely victors here though. While they’ve struggled to convert one point into three on the road, they have invariably done the business at home. Even with the pressure on, they’ve held their nerve and have won 12 of their last 15 home games in all competitions. They are an experienced side and there haven’t really been any cracks showing and they look capable of fulfilling their part of the final day bargain here.

Having secured survival, Villarreal will most likely be quite content to just wipe the slate clean and start again next season. They have picked up a couple of key away wins over the past month or two but it’s still 4 defeats from their last 6 away games overall and too often they’ve lacked the steel and discipline to grind out results on their travels.

Up against a Getafe side with an impressive 61% home win ratio this term, it’s hard to see them getting a result.

Sevilla vs Athletic Bilbao

Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @5:15pm

In some respects, this is the most important game on the final weekend in La Liga. Both Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao have plenty left to play for in terms of the race for Europe. Sevilla still have a chance of finishing 4th but they’d need a couple of big favours elsewhere for that to happen. Athletic Bilbao meanwhile would leapfrog Sevilla into 6th with a win but could drop out of the European positions and into 8th if they lose.

6th would mean direct entry into the Europa League group stage rather than the early start to the season in the qualifying rounds that would be the result of finishing 7th. Either would be relatively scant consolation for Sevilla who looked like certain Champions League qualifiers at one stage. With just 4 points from their last 5 games though, they’ve really let it slip and there may come a point on Saturday where they decide to settle for 6th if the other games are going against them.

It will also be something of a delicate balancing act for Athletic Club as they decide whether to really target the win here or just settle for the point that would guarantee Europa League qualifying action. They’ve done the opposite to Sevilla this season in many ways having started poorly and been in the relegation zone at the time of Gaizka Garitano’s appointment in the Autumn. He has done a sensational job but recent results have been a bit more mixed with 3 wins and 3 defeats from their last 7 games.

The bookies make Sevilla the clear favourites here but you have to question whether they are worthy of that status. They collapsed to a shock 3-0 defeat in their most recent home game against a Leganes side with nothing to play for. The four game ban dished out to key man Ever Banega has hit them hard and Sevilla will be without their strongest midfield option again here which is a significant blow.

Joaquin Caparros did a fine job in a caretaker capacity last term but he hasn’t managed to back that up this time around and he has plenty of other injuries to contend with here too. Athletic will fancy they can get something and they will most likely look to play on the break with the pace of Inaki Williams, who has had perhaps his most impressive season in an Athletic shirt.

Real Valladolid vs Valencia

Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @5:15pm

The battle for 4th place in La Liga will be settled by the outcome of three simultaneous matches this Saturday afternoon. Valencia are in pole position to secure it now and they will be playing Champions League football next term if they can win this match against a Real Valladolid side who secured their safety last weekend.

That fact may well work in Valencia’s favour as they are no longer playing a team that is scrapping for their lives. Los Che will be under real pressure to get the job done though. They are a club that budgeted for Champions League qualification this season having easily finished in the top four last term and they wouldn’t have anticipated being in a three-way scrap with Getafe and Sevilla heading into the final weekend.

Real Valladolid’s only real target this season was to avoid the drop and they are the only one of the promoted teams who has managed to do that. They celebrated wildly with one of the biggest away followings of the season in Spain last weekend after a 2-1 win at Rayo Vallecano coupled with results elsewhere ensured they would have a tension-free final day.

That result made it 3 wins from 4 for Valladolid and it’s just 1 defeat in 6 so they have responded really well to the challenge of a fierce relegation scrap. However they may struggle to match that intensity here and if history is anything to go by, teams with nothing to play for tend to get beaten on the final day in La Liga when faced with sides that do.

Even if they were playing for something, this would be a really tough ask for Valladolid. Valencia are comfortably the better side and following their Europa League exit, this is their only path into next season’s Champions League. Their last two league performances have been good as they comfortably saw off the challenge of Huesca and Alaves with their three main forwards all getting in amongst the goals.

They should have the beating of what isn’t a great Valladolid side. Sergio’s men are the division’s lowest scorers and it’s hard to see them severely testing this Valencia defence.

Deportivo Alaves vs Girona

Estadio de Mendizorroza, Vitoria-Gastiez

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @9:45pm

Girona are in a pretty desperate position heading into this Saturday’s trip to Alaves in La Liga. They retain a mathematical chance of staying up. However they need a huge favour from already relegated Rayo Vallecano in Vigo. If Rayo win then Girona can survive by winning this game whilst overturning the goal difference deficit which currently stands at six goals.

It looks very unlikely that all of those things will happen and there was an air of resignation at Montilivi last weekend as Girona lost a six-pointer against Levante having taken the lead on the hour mark. That was their 8th defeat in 9 matches and there was nothing about the reaction of the players or the post-match comments of their coach which suggested they believe they have any chance heading into the final weekend.

The only positive for Girona is that they are up against an Alaves side that is in equally bad form. Both sides have taken just 3 points from their last 9 matches and find themselves well adrift at the bottom of the form table as a result. The Basques fortunately already had more than enough points on the board having looked like Champions League hopefuls only a couple of months back.

Part of the reason for their demise may lie in a messy situation where their coach Abelardo has failed to agree a new deal leading to the club announcing his departure a few weeks back. The Alaves boss felt he was worthy of a greater pay deal and in truth he probably had a point having done a brilliant job in Vitoria but with just 3 wins in their last 19 league games, they have clearly lost their way a bit.

Girona may be on the brink of relegation but they are actually the 6th best travellers in La Liga with an average of 1.22 points per game away. It is their shocking home record that has really cost them and they may end up spending much of the summer wondering just how they’ve failed to survive in a season where they’ve won at both the Mestalla and the Bernabeu.

They will be hungry to end on a positive note here and at least try to put some pressure on Celta Vigo.

Celta Vigo vs Rayo Vallecano

Albanca Balaidos, Vigo

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @9:45pm

This Saturday’s clash in La Liga sees Celta Vigo play host to already relegated Rayo Vallecano. The hosts need a point to guarantee their Primera Division survival. Even a defeat would be enough if Girona fail to win their game which kicks off at the same time and Celta do have a 6 goal advantage in the goal difference stakes so it would take some turnaround for the Galicians to end the day anything but a Primera Division club.

They did miss the chance to rubber stamp their survival last time out. Celta were beaten 3-1 away to Athletic with 3 goals conceded inside the opening 40 minutes. It was a poor performance but they were helped out by Levante’s win at Montilivi which takes a lot of the pressure off the final game although there will still be an element of tension in the air come kick-off.

Rayo will be playing Segunda Division football again next term. Despite a brief hot streak in the middle of the campaign where they won 4 out of 5, the Madrid club haven’t really looked like surviving at any point this term despite the impressive goal haul of Raul De Tomas. The re-appointment of Paco Jemez hasn’t stopped their decline either and they’ve lost 12 of their last 16 league games overall.

It’s hard to see them getting anything here. Rayo’s last two away performances have been dismal as they slumped to a 5-0 loss at Sevilla before a 4-1 defeat at Levante in a big six-pointer at the bottom. That result basically sealed their fate and they are starting to look like a side that is ready for the summer break.

Celta have found some form at home and that’s basically what has seen them haul themselves towards safety. They’ve reeled off four straight wins in front of their own fans and there’s no reason why they can’t make that five here. Iago Aspas has been in inspired form and with strong backing from the terraces at Balaidos, Celta look capable of winning this game with relative ease so going for Celta Vigo -1.0 Asian Handicap could be worth a punt.

Huesca vs Leganes

Estadio El Alcoraz, Huesca

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @9:45pm

Huesca bow out of La Liga after just one season this Saturday. They’ll be hoping to end the campaign on a positive note against a Leganes side who will be in celebratory mood whatever the outcome with their best ever league finish already sealed. Victory here would give them an outside chance of finishing in the top half which would be an extraordinary achievement.

As for the home team, they need a win to stand a chance of avoiding the wooden spoon and that should provide some motivation. Huesca were always likely to struggle at this level and while it has turned out that way, some of their football has been good and they’ve been competitive in the vast majority of their games with the finishing touch the only thing lacking in a lot of their games.

Leganes have struggled for victories a bit since a win over Valladolid in April moved them onto 39 points and all but guaranteed their safety. They’ve only won once in 7 outings since then but that was a hugely impressive 3-0 victory at Sevilla. Mauricio Pellegrino has again impressed in La Liga following his failure to make a mark in the Premier League but Lega could face a battle to hang onto him with both Seville clubs likely to be looking for a new boss this summer.

With not much really at stake, there will be an end of season feel to this game and it’s a tough one to call. A failure to convert one point into three has been something of a running theme this season for Huesca. They’ve drawn twice as many games as they’ve won and five of their last eight league matches have finished up level.

Leganes aren’t the sort of side that ever really opens up and looks to play expansive football. They will probably sit quite deep even against the division’s bottom club and look to hit them on the break. They have developed a counter-attacking approach to go with their more direct tactics and it has added a touch of variety to their game with Martin Braithwaite proving a hit following his January move.

Real Madrid vs Real Betis

Estádio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Sunday, 19-05-2019 @1pm

Seldom have Real Madrid been so desperate for a season to finish and it finally will do on Sunday, admittedly several months after their hopes of clinching silverware ended. Real Betis will also be pretty pleased to see the back of this campaign which has ended with them slipping out of European contention and with their fans turning on the coach.

This will almost certainly be Quique Setien’s last game as Betis boss. His side did see off bottom club Huesca last time out but a run of just 1 point from 5 games prior to that put pay to their Europa League hopes. Current Alaves coach Abelardo is the favourite to take over the realms at the Benito Villamarin this summer with Julen Lopetegui also in the frame.

Real Madrid started the season with Lopetegui in charge and there is certainly a debate to be had as to whether it would have ultimately panned out better had they just stuck with the former Spain boss who was in the process of trying to bring in more of a passing game. Things briefly picked up under Santi Solari before imploding spectacularly and the return of Zinedine Zidane to oversee the final couple of months of the season hasn’t really brought any noticeable improvements.

They’ve lost 3 times under the Frenchman to bring the season tally to 12 league defeats, their worst loss tally this century. However they have at least found a cure for their home woes. Real have won five out of five at the Bernabeu since Zidane’s return. The performances haven’t been spectacular but a return of 13 goals in those 5 games certainly represents an improvement and they will fancy they can exploit Betis’ defensive problems here.

Quique Setien’s men have conceded 10 goals in their last 4 away games and have gone 10 league games without a clean sheet heading into this match. It’s also 10 defeats in 18 matches overall which speaks volumes for how their season has unravelled and there’s not a great deal of reason to fancy them to cause an upset here.

Eibar vs Barcelona

Estadio Municipal de Ipurua, Eibar

Sunday, 19-05-2019 @5:15pm

This should be a celebratory occasion for Barcelona as they play their final league game in another title winning season in La Liga. However there is not much optimism or joy around their camp right now with the fallout from the most humbling of nights at Anfield still very much an ongoing process. They will be hoping to at least record victory at Eibar this Sunday to give themselves a lift heading into the Copa del Rey Final next weekend.

Barcelona are going to have Antoine Griezmann in their ranks next season which should add an exciting new dimension to their attack. However they are a bit short on options in the final third for the final two games with both Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez out injured. The back-up options simply haven’t delivered this term and that leaves Barca in the familiar position of relying on Leo Messi to guide them to another trophy next weekend.

That may convince Ernesto Valverde to rest Messi here which can only be good news for Eibar. The Basques haven’t managed to better last season’s excellent 9th place finish but this season still has to be regarded as a success for a club whose budget would barely cover the wages of one of Barcelona’s superstars. Having already beaten Real Madrid at Ipurua this season, they’d love to claim another famous scalp here and they have a decent chance.

Barcelona have rotated heavily in recent away games and while it’s not likely to be as weak a side as the ones that travelled to Huesca and Vigo, injuries alone ensure they won’t be anywhere near full strength. The cup final in six days time in Seville is the priority and while it was important they responded to the defeat at Anfield in the right manner which they did last time out, this isn’t a match that is particularly significant from a Barca perspective.

The Catalans have won just 2 of their last 6 on the road in all competitions. While Eibar’s form and season has been a bit patchy, they have won 2 of their last 3 including an impressive victory at the Mestalla.




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