Tim Stannard rounds up the final weekend of La Liga action...
That was enormous fun. By the final evening of Spain’s top flight season, LLL counted seven different changes in the teams that were going down, as well as Valencia swinging from disaster to triumph in the chase for fourth.
Pretty much the only team that were solid as a rock and took care of business were Athletic Club, who grabbed seventh spot to qualify for the Europa League next season, no matter what happens in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona. Here’s how everything went down...
Eibar’s Worst. Day. Ever...
It must have been like having wisdom teeth extracted at the same time as a thorough prostate check. With Eibar 3-0 up at Córdoba and Deportivo losing 2-0 to Barcelona in the Camp Nou, relegation must have been inconceivable for fans in the stands. But relegated Eibar are, what with Depor coming back to draw 2-2 at Barcelona and complete a remarkable recovery. It’s going to take quite a lot of therapy to get over this one.
In the end, Eibar’s second half of the season caught up with the northerners. The first was a mini-miracle, with the club pushing for Europe. But from mid-January the team’s form and confidence tanked with just two victories from 20 matches, the second being Saturday’s 3-0 victory against Córdoba. “A cruel way of going down,” lamented then-Eibar coach Gaizka Garitano, who said that he will be leaving his post. “A coach that takes a team down should not carry on in the job."
A light at the end of the tunnel is that one of the clubs replacing the three relegated teams are Real Betis, a fantastic addition to La Liga and a club that should have a permanent admission ticket.
Eibar 3-0 Cordoba
Depor’s Luckiest. Day. Ever...
LLL had predicted that Depor would stay up despite hardly winning any games in the final run-in. But, Merciful Zeus, the Galicians tested this theory to the limit by picking up just the one victory in 16 matches but still managing to stay up. Never has there been a luckier team in the top flight.
Even what should have been Mission Impossible in the Camp Nou turned out to be a breeze in the end, with Barca giving up the ghost after going 2-0 up and not having the desire to do too much about Deportivo’s comeback. “I asked them to slow down a bit,” revealed Depor’s Lopo, who had a chat with Xavi with the scores at 2-2, “and said that the draw was good for both teams.”
Barcelona 2-2 Deportivo
Almería do the decent thing in La Liga
A big thank you to Almería for taking one for the team with defeat to Valencia, despite going ahead twice. With the 3-2 loss they not only spared LLL from another ‘turmoil at Mestalla’ summer, with Valencia claiming fourth, but also made irrelevant the very messy situation of what would happen in the courts if Almería stayed up and then had their three-point deduction ratified by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Almeria 2-3 Valencia
Valencia get what was coming
Unsurprisingly, Valencia celebrated the aforementioned victory at Almería as if they had won the Champions League. And in a way, the team did as they now have the right to take part in the still-dangerous qualifying round. Coach Nuno said that it would have been very unfair had the mighty men of Mestalla not reached their goal, and LLL is on board with that theory. However, Valencia did their level best to set up quite the tumultuous close season with a nervy display, before Paco Alcácer finished the match off.
Almeria 2-3 Valencia
Sevilla set up five-pronged attack for La Liga
Another pat on the back for Sevilla, but LLL feels that a final finish of fifth was the right move for La Liga. Barring a bit of an upset, it means that Spain could well have five teams in the Champions League next season. There's just one more job for Unai Emery on Wednesday night in the Europa League final, before a few weeks of speculation over where the crouching legend will be managing next year. Sevilla, hopefully.
Malaga 2-3 Sevilla
Atlético do what comes naturally
If ever there was a team genetically disposed to getting a draw it's Atlético Madrid, a gaggle that took part in one of the pointless games in history and only livened up by the fact that opponents Granada repeatedly found themselves in and out of the relegation zone despite doing next to nothing against the Rojiblancos. The goalless draw did the job for both teams; Atlético securing third and Granada staying up.
Granada 0-0 Atletico Madrid
Ronaldo picks up another impressive Pichichi
Real Madrid's clash with Getafe was surprisingly vibrant, like an enormous, city-budget blowing firework display to wrap up a night of opera. 7-3 was the scoreline but that was only secondary to the machinations of working out whether the crowd would be giving a thumbs up or down to key Real Madrid figures.
Iker Casillas generally got by, as did Carlo Ancelotti, a little different to the routine booing of Jose Mourinho. But most importantly of all, Cristiano Ronaldo got his Pichichi win with an admittedly impressive 48 goals.
Real Madrid 7-3 Getafe
Xavi launches long goodbye
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A weird one for Xavi Hernández. An awful lot of tributes and fond farewells, but the Barcelona midfielder still has an awful lot to contribute to the cause with a Copa del Rey final next weekend at the Camp Nou – a chance for another set of the bumps – and also a potential celebration of the Champions League trophy at the same stadium. Perhaps if there's someone who deserves three huge send-offs, though, it's the wee wonder of Barça's midfield.
Barcelona 2-2 Deportivo