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La Liga

La Liga preview: Pepe Mel in danger of relegation and a Champions League place for Villarreal?

Week 37 in La Liga approaches with key games again at the very top of the table, the Champions League places, the Europa League spots and the bottom three.

Espanyol vs Valencia

La Liga kicks off on Saturday at the RCDE Stadium with Espanyol looking for the win that would temporarily take Quique Sánchez Flores’ side up to 8th in the table, while visitors Valencia can add to their 4-1 win over Osasuna.

Despite doing well to relieve any fears of relegation this season, Valencia announced on Thursday that Marcelino would be the man to lead the club next season. However, caretaker manager Voro will be in the dugout for Valencia’s remaining fixtures.

Osasuna vs Granada

It’s the clash of the two relegated sides on Saturday evening with both sides looking to restore some pride to their league campaigns. Deservedly 19th and 20th respectively, Granada and Osasuna have conceded a combined 166 goals, scoring just 66 between them.

Since their confirmed relegation, Osasuna have played positively and, although it has resulted in thrashings against Barcelona and Valencia, the side from Pamplona have at least secured two draws and two victories from their last seven fixtures.

For Granada and Tony Adams, their first points together still seem a long way off with six defeats in a row since Adams’ arrival, conceding 13 and scoring just once.

Alaves vs Celta Vigo

Action on Sunday gets underway at the Mendizorrotza between an Alaves side in solid form of late and a Celta Vigo side who have been resting players in mass to prepare for their Europa League semi-final.

Alaves can mathematically finish as high as 8th this season but after bowing out by a fine margin, Mauricio Pellegrino may find that his side are against the backlash of a full a full strength Celta side after they fell at the semi-final stage of the Europa League to Manchester United.

Going into this game, both managers’ futures have been brought into doubt with Eduardo Berizzo linked with Sevilla and Mauricio Pellegrino rumoured to be in the running for Berizzo’s current position at Celta Vigo.

Athletic Bilbao vs Leganes

A run of four straight wins was halted for Athletic Bilbao last week as they lost 1-0 away to Alaves, leaving the club level on points with Real Sociedad and a point behind Villarreal in the fight for European football next season.

This week it’s back to Bilbao at the San MamĂ©s where they are so incredibly tough to beat, as they take on Leganes who confirmed their top-flight status with a resounding 4-0 win over Real Betis last time out.

Eibar vs Sporting GijĂłn

A candidate for Manager of the Year in La Liga, JosĂ© Luis Mendilibar has lead Eibar to 8th position on 54 points, well above the club’s expectations from the start of the season. This week they host Sporting GijĂłn who kept their slim hopes of survival alive by winning 1-0 against Las Palmas, but relegation will be confirmed if they fail to back that victory up with another at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium.

Eibar have lost three of their last six fixtures, but failing to gain a positive result could see the club drop to 10th in the division.

Las Palmas vs Barcelona

The fans of Las Palmas will be relieved that their club got the business of securing their league status done early on because, in their last eight fixtures, Las Palmas have only picked up four points, conceding 22 goals in the process. As it is, Los Amarillos go into the final two games of the season safe but will no doubt want to have an impact on the title race as they welcome FC Barcelona.

Since the slip up to Málaga which looked like it would seal La Liga in Real Madrid’s favour, Barcelona have won five league games on the bounce, scoring in at least three in all of them, largely down to the genius of Lionel Messi.
With 12 goals in his last 10 La Liga games, Messi is in astonishing goalscoring form once again and you wouldn’t bet against him extending his lead for the Pichichi this weekend in a must-win for Barcelona.

Real Betis vs Atlético Madrid

It was disappointment again for Atlético Madrid in Europe as they were dumped out by Real Madrid for the fourth year in succession, leaving the club just on par this season.

There is a sense that this incredibly stubborn Atlético Madrid side have just past their peak now with talk of Diego Simeone moving on to a new challenge, as well as key players Jan Oblak and Antoine Griezmann.

Nothing to play for now but Atlético Madrid will want to finish strongly and have only suffered defeat once in their last 12, while Real Betis have suffered eight league defeats in the same period.

Real Madrid vs Sevilla

With victory over their local rivals, Real Madrid booked their place in the Champions League Final in Cardiff midweek and with the game in hand in the league, it looks like it’ll be a stunning double for Zinedine Zidane and Co.

Real Madrid have heavily rotated in recent weeks to perfect effect but it’s likely that a stronger XI will be fielded against Sevilla with the final 22 days away, as well as the need now to focus on league form.

Almost a forgotten man at one point and was linked with a move to England to the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal, Isco has been in exceptional form of late and could be key in picking up three points for Real on Sunday.

The visitors to the Santiago Bernabéu are still in patchy form and have failed to win in their last two games. Sevilla are still at risk of losing their Champions League place to the prowling Villarreal as a 1-1 draw and a 0-0 draw means if both teams finish on level points, goal difference rather than head to head will be decisive, a stat which Villarreal are currently leading.

Real Sociedad vs Málaga

Another good candidate for Manager of the Season, Eusebio has led La Real to 7th place as it stands but are just the single point behind Villarreal in 5th and will be there to take advantage should the teams above them lose ground.

Real Sociedad have been in good form, losing only one of their last six. However, in a stunning turn of events, Málaga have also only lost one of their six (winning five and losing 2-0 to Barcelona) and now sit in 11th position.

Right behind the form of Málaga is Sandro Ramírez, once of Barcelona who has netted seven times in his last seven games, taking his tally to 14 for the league season and has now caught the eye abroad, with Everton said to be interested if Romelu Lukaku moves on this summer. Another replacement for Lukaku is rumoured to be Willian José, who has scored 12 league goals for Real Sociedad.

Villarreal vs Deportivo

Villarreal just can’t shake off the chasing pack despite winning five of their last eight games in La Liga as well as keeping an eye on happenings below, and an opportunity upwards has emerged with Sevilla failing to secure 4th place. Should Sevilla fail to pick up a point against Real Madrid, Villarreal will have the opportunity to snatch a Champions League place on the final day of the season.

For Deportivo La Coruña, it’s just one win in nine now since that famous victory against Barcelona, and Pepe Mel’s hard work to do what looked to be enough is in danger of all falling apart now, with the club in real danger of relegation if they lose on Sunday and Rubi’s side capitalise with a win.

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