Frenzied finale awaits on last day of Spanish top-flight
MADRID - Reuters
Star forward Radamel Falcao is expected to leave Atletico Madrid if the club fails to qualify for the Champions League. AFP photoA Champions League spot, two Europa League berths and two relegation places are to be claimed or avoided in what promises to be a nerve-wracking finale to the La Liga season on May 13.
Atletico Madrid, who beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0 to win the Europa League final in midweek, is eying a bigger prize for next season as it battles Malaga and Levante for Spain’s fourth and final Champions League place.
A clutch of teams could make it into Europe’s second-tier club competition and five teams are scrabbling to avoid joining already relegated Racing Santander in the second division. The eight matches which affect these positions all kick off at the same time.
Champion Real Madrid will parade the trophy at the Bernabeu when it takes on sixth-placed Real Mallorca.
A victory would give Jose Mourinho’s men a new La Liga record 100 points, beating by one the mark set by Barcelona in 2010, and would add to its league goal-scoring record which sits at 117 with one left to play.
Deposed champion Barça plays the last league game of Pep Guardiola’s tenure at Real Betis on May 12, when Lionel Messi has the chance to build on his La Liga record tally of 50 goals. Malaga fans more used to enduring final-day relegation battles will be in the unaccustomed position of cheering its side on to a possible first venture into the Champions League next year.
The Qatar-owned club is in pole position to secure Spain’s last remaining ticket into Europe’s elite club competition, and some pay back on the millions invested in the club since it was bought two years ago.
The Romareda may still get to witness the despair of a team suffering relegation, however, because the only way Sporting Gijon, who is 19th, can survive, is by winning.
“Possibly, this week is one of the most important in the club’s history,” Malaga midfielder Duda said.
“It will be an emotional game, but with different emotions to those of other years where we have been playing to avoid relegation.”
Atletico is two points behind them in fifth, and need to raise itself for one final effort away at relegation-threatened Villarreal. Seventh-placed Levante’s slender options require a victory over Bilbao and other results to go their way.
At the foot of the table, 15th-placed Granada, Villarreal, Rayo Vallecano, Real Zaragoza and Sporting, respectively, are separated by five points in the battle to avoid the drop.
Two of the teams go head-to-head when Granada visit Rayo, the Andalucians hindered by a slew of suspensions. Granada lost its head at the end of their 2-1 defeat to Real last weekend and in a melee after the final whistle, when a number of players were shown red cards.