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Sunday, June 26, 2022

LaLiga Preview: Battle for European spot thickens

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Several heavyweight battles are coming up in Matchday 35 of the 2021/22 LaLiga, including the second Madrid Derby of the campaign.

In just one weekend, football fans can savour Real Betis vs FC Barcelona, Villarreal CF vs Sevilla FC and Atlético Madrid vs Real Madrid, with all six of those teams currently inside the top seven in the standings in LaLiga.

Read Also: Two Derbies and the Chance for Real Madrid to Clinch LaLiga Title

That means these teams are on course for European qualification, so will be fighting to stay there and book the most prestigious UEFA ticket possible.

The other club currently in the top seven is Real Sociedad and they get Matchday 35 up and running on Friday, visiting relegation-battling Levante UD, who have shown tremendous spirit in the past few weeks. Even if they lost their past two home games 3-2, that was against FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC, so Real Sociedad know they’re in for a tough night.

The first game of Saturday is another huge one in its own right, as RCD Mallorca host Granada CF for a relegation six-pointer. Both teams have changed their coach in the past few weeks, with Javier Aguirre coming in on the island and Aitor Karanka taking over the Granada CF hotseat. Each has already made a positive impact and will be battling for the three points at the Visit Mallorca Estadi.

Several other intriguing fixtures follow on Saturday afternoon. Athletic Club coach Marcelino takes on his former side Valencia CF at San Mamés as those two historic clubs aim to finish as high as possible. In Vigo, RC Celta will host Deportivo Alavés as the Basque side look to keep their slim survival hopes alive. There’s also Cádiz CF vs Elche CF, an extra special fixture for striker Lucas Pérez given that he switched from the Franjiverdes to the Amarillos in January.

On Saturday night comes the first of the weekend’s top-of-the-table clashes as Real Betis take on FC Barcelona at what promises to be an electric Estadio Benito Villamarín, as this will be the Verdiblancos’ first home match since winning the Copa del Rey. Coach Manuel Pellegrini has urged his players to keep battling for a potential Champions League qualification spot, making this duel with a direct rival for a top four berth so important.

Sunday is Madrid Derby day, yet it’s not only Atleti and Real Madrid who’ll face off. Before that, Getafe CF take on fellow Madrid side Rayo Vallecano in the first fixture of the day. It was in the reverse fixture that Radamel Falcao made his Franjirrojo debut earlier in the season, coming off the bench to score a goal.

Villarreal CF vs Sevilla FC and RCD Espanyol vs CA Osasuna follow on Sunday afternoon, with the first of these fixtures having major implications in the race for Europe. Unai Emery’s squad will want to ensure they have continental competition again next season, following this year’s incredible run, while Sevilla FC want to qualify for the Champions League for the third season in a row, and also the Spanish Super Cup.

Then comes the Madrid Derby on Sunday night, rounding off Matchday 35. This is always a passionate duel and it will be once again at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano as Diego Simeone and Carlo Ancelotti’s sides face off. Atleti have yet to defeat their neighbours at their new stadium and would love to finally do so this weekend, especially since the three points are so important in their push for Champions League qualification. Having now gone eight derbies without victory, the Atleti fans feel one is overdue.

Matchday 35, therefore, promises to be a thrilling one, with so much at stake. There is still so much to play for in the race towards Europe and in the fight for survival, with other important fixtures just around the corner too.

In Matchday 36, Real Betis’ quest for Champions League football will see them visit Mestalla for a Copa del Rey final rematch against Valencia CF.

Then, in Matchday 37, there are direct duels such as Atlético de Madrid vs Sevilla FC, Villarreal CF vs Real Sociedad and Levante UD vs Deportivo Alavés. Everything will then be decided on the final weekend, when Real Betis visit the Bernabéu and Villarreal CF go to the Camp Nou, while Atlético de Madrid will end the season away at Real Sociedad.

So much could still change in the LaLiga Santander standings, as there are so many fascinating six-pointers coming up, starting this weekend in Matchday 35.

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