FFT's Spanish guru Tim Stannard looks ahead to the final weekend of the La Liga season, or is it...?
Aside from the possibility in a few weeks' time of administrative relegation for Getafe and Elche over outstanding debts to the taxman, and Almería potentially being deducted three points in a ruling by CAS next week, everything will be done and dusted in La Liga this weekend. Sort of.
With something to play for either at the top (ish) and bottom, eight games are being played at the same time with Real Madrid in a cluster of two others as stand-alone encounters. The big questions to be decided are the Champions League places, a final Europa League spot and relegation.
La Liga Loca has had a run through of some entrails it found beside the road and is predicting Atlético Madrid and Valencia to make third and fourth, Athletic Bilbao to grab seventh and Almería and Deportivo to join Córdoba in the second division next season. In a hurry? Watch LLL preview the weekend to your face!
Can almost-doomed Deportivo pull off miracle?
LLL has previously touched on Víctor Sánchez’s love of recorded moving pictures - the devil’s work, really - to prep his players in terms of tactics. The Deportivo boss has used the same medium to tug his footballers’ heart-strings and pull out big performances. Before last weekend’s vital 2-0 victory over Levante, Victor used clips of the footballers’ family imploring the players not to put them through the humiliation of being related to a Segunda division player. Speeches and tactical videos may not cut the mustard on Saturday though as Deportivo are off to the Camp Nou for what could be a ritual slaughter as Barca celebrate the title. Not even Mel Gibson in the flesh blasting through the Braveheart speech can save them.
Barcelona v Deportivo - Saturday 18.30 CEST
Are Eibar facing an extra motivated Córdoba?
Then again, who knows what will happen with Eibar. In theory, at home to Córdoba is the easiest possible game that the Basque club could have chosen, as well as Depor’s visit to the Camp Nou being the hardest for Eibar’s rivals. The job in hand is to beat already relegated Córdoba and wait for nature to take its course in the Camp Nou. However, with Spanish football being what it is, there are fears up north that the Córdoba players might have extra motivation to make life difficult. “I don’t have proof that Córdoba have been given win ‘incentives’ but rumours are coming my way,’ was the claim from Eibar president Alex Aranzabal.
Eibar v Córdoba - Saturday 18.30 CEST
Will Valencia players be drunk... or in disguise?
If Valencia had an official vibe ambassador, in charge of matching the moods of players with the appropriate reaction, then the one working for the Mestalla club would either have 100 bottles of champagne on ice, a mere 50 or a whole bag of disguises to help the footballers' re-entry into the city through a throng of pitchfork-waving fans. These are the three outcomes of Valencia on Saturday.
A win on the road to Almería means that fourth is guaranteed and even third could be possible if Atletico lose at Granada. A defeat or a draw and a win for Sevilla at Málaga would see Valencia out of the Champions League completely, a complete disaster for the club considering that La Liga is all that the players have had on their breakfast plates since January. If LLL was in the predicting game, then the club will be drinking just the 50 bottles. But still better than wearing funny noses and trench coats.
Almería v Valencia – Saturday 18.30 CEST
Will this be another end of an era for Real Madrid?
If Carlo Ancelotti is being booted out of the Bernabéu then the Italian is going to have to wave goodbye to fans from a VIP box, as the Madrid coach is serving the second match of a touchline ban.
Whether or not the supporters want to see the departure of Ancelotti and whether it would be a terrible idea to sack him is a huge matter for another day.
This is especially the case when the final game of the season could be the last one with Real Madrid for Iker Casillas - who may be already smelling what David de Gea has cooking in his kitchen - and even Gareth Bale.
Heck, we can even throw Cristiano Ronaldo into the mix, for kicks. The one certainty is the fact that Getafe have come along for a game of football might generally be overlooked by the Santiago Bernabéu crowd.
Real Madrid v Getafe - Saturday 20.30 CEST
Can Athletic make double sure of Europa action?
ALSO IN LA LIGA
The head-to-head system in La Liga is a bit of a pain. Rather than using goal difference – too dodgy when it comes to end-of-season strange scores – teams tied on points at the end of the campaign are judged on how they fared against each other. A much more sensible system to be fair, but annoying at it takes at least 25 seconds of extra research. LLL was looking at what Athletic would need against Villarreal to secure seventh and guarantee a spot in the Europa League next season, either by winning the Copa del Rey or using the seventh place as a gateway seeing as Barca are already in the Champions League. The answer is a win to keep Málaga at bay. A point and a win for Málaga at home to Sevilla would see the southern side going into Europe and probably instantly regretting it due to the size of their squad.
But Athletic host Villarreal, a team that secured sixth place eons ago and have played exactly how one imagines a team would that secured sixth place eons ago. The Basque battlers should be all set for Europe.
Athletic Bilbao v Villarreal – Saturday 18.30 CEST