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Thursday, March 30, 2023

LaLiga Preview: Intense battle for European, relegation spots

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The penultimate round of the 2021/22 LaLiga season takes place this weekend, with nine of the Matchday 37 fixtures being held at the same 19:30 CEST kick-off time on Sunday. With so much still to play for in the race for European qualification and the relegation battle, almost every fixture has something at stake and will be played together to ensure all teams are competing in the most equal conditions possible.

This season’s LaLiga relegation battle is tight, and Levante could still have a role to play in it, even though they became the first club mathematically relegated when they lost to Real Madrid on Thursday. That’s because of the Granotas host second-bottom Deportivo Alavés on Sunday, with the Basque side needing a win to have any chance of securing their survival.

Read Also: More to play for as 2021/22 LaLiga season reach final stretch

Sunday could also be a decisive day for Cádiz and Mallorca, with the former currently 17th and outside of the relegation zone on 35 points, while the islanders occupy the final relegation spot of 18th with 33 points. RCD Mallorca will hope to finish this matchday having leapfrogged their rivals, as they’ll aim for three points when they host Rayo Vallecano, at the same time as Cádiz CF tackle the difficult task of facing champions Real Madrid.

Neither Getafe nor Granada are mathematically safe from relegation yet, even if they each have bigger cushions to the drop zone, and both those sides have difficult games of their own on Sunday. In the case of Getafe, they’ll be at home to Barcelona and, even though the capital city club have only lost one of their last 13 home games, Barçelona have so much firepower in their squad. As for Granada, they make the short trip to the Andalusian capital to visit Real Betis, which won’t be easy for Aitor Karanka’s side since the Verdiblancos are still fighting for objectives of their own.

That brings us on to the race to Europe, as Real Betis still maintain hope of chasing down their city rivals Sevilla for the last of the four Champions League spots. Ahead of this weekend, Sevilla hold a five-point lead as they’re on 66 points and Manuel Pellegrini’s men are on 61 points, but the Nervionenses have a very tricky trip away at Atlético Madrid, having failed to win an away league game against Atleti since 2008. That match at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano will be taking place at the same time as Real Betis vs Granada, so football fans in Seville will be frantically checking both scores.

LaLiga Matchday 37 also brings us a fascinating head-to-head duel as seventh-placed Villarreal host sixth-placed Real Sociedad. As things stand, La Real would take the final Europa League spot and the Submarino Amarillo would be going to the Conference League, but that could all change with a home victory. Villarreal are only three points behind the Basque side, so could leapfrog them into sixth place via a superior head-to-head record.

Real Sociedad fans will, therefore, be hoping that Villarreal fail to get that win and, curiously, so too will supporters of La Real’s rivals Athletic Club. The team from Bilbao need a favour from their Basque neighbours if they are to maintain their dreams of returning to European football for the first time since 2018, as they are currently eighth and four points behind Villarreal in the standings. Athletic Club’s coach Marcelino will, though, have his charges thinking first and foremost about their duel at home to Osasuna.

In the safety of mid-table, Espanyol face Valencia (Saturday evening) while Celta entertain Elche (Sunday evening) in fixtures crucial to the race for the Zarra Trophy, the award given each season to the top-scoring Spaniard in LaLiga Santander. Espanyol’s Raúl De Tomás (16) and Iago Aspas (17) will both be looking to stake their claim for the trophy as we head into the final two matches of the season.

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