It has been an eventful few days in Spanish football with Cristiano Ronaldo becoming a Real Madrid centurion in European Competition, Barcelona crucially slipping up to Málaga, Monchi waving goodbye to Sevilla and Tony Adams taking charge of Granada. Can Barcelona get back into it? Who will take the remaining European spots? And is this the weekend we see a significant gap open up at the bottom of the table?
Athletic Bilbao vs Las Palmas
The action kicks off in La Liga at the San Mamés where Athletic Bilbao have won 11 of their 16 games this season, suffering defeat only to the league’s top two. In stark contrast, Las Palmas have failed to win an away game in the league in 14 attempts with their last coming against Valencia on the opening weekend.
After a defeat to Villarreal in their last game, Ernesto Valverde will be hoping his side can go above Basque rivals Real Sociedad, at least temporarily, to keep their hopes of European football next season alive. One way or the other, games involving Las Palmas promise goals at present.
Deportivo vs Málaga
Life at Deportivo started well for Pepe Mel but 3 defeats and a goalless draw against Granada have Depor anxiously looking over their shoulder again.
The home side welcome Málaga next who had been in poor form themselves but for an incredible 2-0 victory against FC Barcelona to all but end the chance of a leaving party title for Luis Enrique. Málaga have now won back to back La Liga games for the first time this season which will see them safe for another season.
Sporting Gijón vs Real Madrid
Time is desperately running out for Rubi and co now in the race for survival as they find themselves still 5 points adrift of safety.
Sporting threatened to make things interesting when a 0-0 draw against Sevilla followed a 3-1 victory over Granada and a 1-1 draw against Valencia but 2 defeats on the bounce with Real Madrid up next doesn’t make good reading for Sporting supporters.
After a creditable draw against Atlético Madrid, made even more so after Barcelona’s defeat to Malaga and a first leg victory against Bayern Munich in the Champions League in which Cristiano Ronaldo reached 100 goals in Europe, Real Madrid are on the march for the double and unless Rubi can put an end to the Champions elect’s stunning record of scoring in 53 consecutive games in all competitions, it’ll likely be one game closer to the title for Zidane’s side.
Atlético Madrid vs Osasuna
Mission accomplished in the league for Atlético this season. Despite it probably not being what Diego Simeone would have aimed for at the start of the season, Atleti have cemented their place in the Champions League places this season and that’s as far as it goes.
With the league whipping boys up next, despite them winning their last two league fixtures, we’re bound to see a weakened side with attention turning to the Champions League. The Vicente Calderón saw Antoine Griezmann slot home a controversial penalty in the 1-0 win over Leicester City but Simeone will need all his weapons as they prepare to go from Calderón to Leicester’ very own King Power cauldron next week.
Barcelona vs Real Sociedad
It may already be too late for Luis Enrique and Barcelona but to have any chance of miraculously beating Madrid to the title from this position, you’d think they’d have to win every game from now on. It seems as though every time Barcelona look like convincing you they can do it, they spectacularly falter. A 0-6 demolition of Alavés was followed by the 4-0 mauling by PSG in the Champions League, the ‘greatest comeback of all time’ in the second leg was quickly forgotten about when Pepe Mel’s Deportivo won 2-1 and a convincing 3-0 win against Sevilla has now been followed up by back to back defeats at the hands of Málaga and Juventus.
Barcelona now face Real Sociedad who are trying to cement a Europa League place but will have to be without Neymar after an additional 2 game ban was added to his sending off against Málaga for ‘sarcastically clapping’ the referee.
One forward who will be available is one time Real Madrid loanee Willian José who will be out to add to his 10 Liga goals and finally extinguish Barcelona’s title challenge once and for all.
Leganes vs Espanyol
A relatively sturdy defence in comparison to the other sides fighting relegation but having only scored 26 goals all season, it’s easy to see why Leganes are down there.
Asier Garitano has done a fantastic job to keep his side out of the drop zone so far in truth but they need to take risks now and sacrifice part of their game to try and score more goals and against a mixed-bag Espanyol side with little to play for, it may be a good fixture to have a go.
However, at the same time, Leganes need to find the balance to cope with Pablo Piatti and Gerard Moreno who have reached 10 and 11 goals respectively.
Valencia vs Sevilla
It’s all looking much better now for Valencia who have won 3 games in a row for the first time this season, scoring 3 in each. Voro’s side are also currently in a rich vein of form at home in the league, winning 5 out of their last 6.
It’s all going the other way for Sevilla though. The Ramón Sánchez waved goodbye to their instrumental director of football Monchi last week and now it appears that the Argentine FA are interested in making Sampaoli the National side’s manager after sacking Edgardo Bauza. However, on a positive note, a run of 6 games without a win was ended when they won 4-2 against Deportivo and they’ll be hoping to finish strongly to ensure a top 4 finish.
Real Betis vs Eibar
Following 3 defeats in a row to Las Palmas, Villarreal and Espanyol, Real Betis welcome José Luis Mendilibar’s Eibar who, sat in 7th, have been one of the success stories of the whole campaign. In contrast to Betis, Eibar have won 3 games in a row and have been scoring freely in the process.
The game at the Estadio Benito Villamarín will involve a trio of players all on 10 goals this campaign – Sergi Enrich and Pedro León for Eibar with the veteran Rubén Castro relied upon for goals for the home side.
Granada vs. Celta Vigo
In a bizarre move, following the sacking of Lucas Alcaraz, Granada moved to hire Arsenal legend Tony Adams who promises to give his new players “a kick up the arse”.
Adams added to that statement by saying “I want us to be tough to beat, we’ve conceded too many goals. We will fight to win every game, that is what the president wants, it is what the fans want.
“Our focus right now is winning on Sunday. We need to be a tough unit. We have a job to do in the next seven games.”
Following his appointment, out of contract Kieran Richardson and Nigel Reo-Coker have been handed trials. Although Sunday’s game may be too soon depending on the players’ fitness levels.
Sunday’s rivals Celta Vigo defeated Genk 3-2 in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night so safely positioned in the middle of the table, Celta may take the opportunity to keep key players fit for next week’s fixture in Belgium including Aspas who added to his season tally against the Pro League side.
Alaves vs Villarreal
In the final game of week 32 in La Liga, what is another success story of the campaign in the form of Pellegrino’s Alaves take on 5th place Villarreal.
Villarreal may sense they have an opportunity to push for 4th, especially with Alaves perfectly safe from the drop but having lost 3 games in a row.
A good omen for the Yellow Submarine is that they have won 4 out of their last 5 on the road in the league, conceding just twice.