La Preview: La Liga reaches season-busting finale (or the third last game)
While the big boys of Spanish football have what is ostensibly a giant peeing contest to mark their territory and possibly bring the game to its knees forever and ever in the process, there is some actual football taking place this weekend. La Liga is heading into the third last round of the season - or potentially the last if the mutually, assured destruction option is chosen. Once again, Real Madrid have to deliver all three points to stay in the title race and hope that David Moyes and his band of Real Sociedad troopers can reconstruct the wall from Game of Thrones at the Camp Nou while asking all his players bluntly to ‘hold the gate’. Here’s what else is going on to while away an idle weekend.
Madrid reach final hurdle in Barcelona chase
Talk about putting a positive spin on a result. Thursday’s edition of AS pulled off quite the coup by plonking Alvaro Morata on the front cover - chosen ahead of Leo Messi and the whole suspension business. The angle being that Real Madrid are set to buy back the striker that may have put them out of this season’s Champions League, after flogging him to Juventus last summer. All very Fernando Morientes.
But that’s all matters waaaaay in the future. Madrid are now facing another trial in their Herculean task to win the double. The latest challenge is to stifle a visiting Valencia, get Karim Benzema back in business as soon as possible and try and get Gareth Bale back on side with the Real Madrid crowd before another whopper of a game in the Spanish capital against Juventus on Wednesday. That’s quite the tick list.
Real Madrid v Valencia: Saturday 20.00 CET
Atlético looking for a little help from some friends
This was an odd one. It seems that there was a giant bust-up in the Atlético Madrid dressing room last weekend in El Madrigal, when the physical trainer bod had quite the barney with club president Enrique Cerezo. The dispute was over the two Rojiblanco goals that were disallowed by the referee, two goals that would have ensured a handy victory against Villarreal.
The beef from Oscar Ortega was that Cerezo wasn’t tight enough with the Spanish FA to make sure that questionable calls are given to Atlético and that not enough ‘pressure’ was given to referees by the club.
Yep, that’s how La Liga works. And also explains a lot. “People were angry and upset after the game,” admitted the Atlético big cheese. Help from the refs might be needed again with Atleti still struggling to find others that are not Antoine Griezmann from finding the back of the net and facing a Levante side that is looking for three more points to pull clear at last from the relegation zone.
Levante v Atlético Madrid - Sunday 12.00 CET
Sevilla looking for another big push against Celta
Just when LLL thought that Sevilla couldn't possibly get any more imperious under Unai Emery, the side went and did its thang against Fiorentina in the Europa League with a 3-0 win to take to the second leg. Very comfy indeed. This might give the players a much needed spring in their step in a potentially laborious clash against a perky Celta Vigo side that is well in the hunt for seventh - could mean Europe, if the season ever ends - but are carrying an awful lot of injuries and suspensions into the clash that sees Sevilla heading up to Galicia. A victory for Sevilla could see the southern side on course to qualify for the Champions League twice - just showing off really - especially if Valencia fail to win in the Santiago Bernabéu.
Celta Vigo v Sevilla - Sunday 21.00 CET
Rayo hope for final end of season boost
It’s the Madrid derby! Well, the other one anyway, with Getafe hopping on the metro and heading over to take on Rayo. The Vallecas side are safe as houses, but all the talk again is about Paco Jémez. The contract negotiations for the wee fella have been up and down, and appear to be on an upward trajectory again. Plenty for Paco to consider as he sits in the stands for the remainder of the season after protesting in rather firm terms a red card against Valencia, and entering the field of play while heading to the dressing rooms.
Rayo Vallecano v Getafe - Monday 20.45
Eibar in do or die day against Espanyol
It’s time to get serious. This really is the last, last, last, last, last, last chance for Eibar to stay up this year. The venue - Ipurua. The visitors - Espanyol. What can possibly go wrong? An awful lot of fingers will be crossed across Spain in the hope that the plucky Basque outfit can pick up three points and slightly move themselves away from the relegation fray and perhaps squeeze out some more in the remaining two games.
“The prize is carrying on in La Primera and we have to face the game this way,” said Gaiza Garitano, who also gave out a long shopping list of what was needed from his players if Eibar were to grab victory number two in 17 league games. “More heart, more order, more concentration, more effort, more enthusiasm, more ambition, running more, closing down more, and being more intense among many other things."
Eibar v Espanyol - Friday 20.45 CET
Granada make last ditch push for survival
Poked away in the league listings this weekend is Granada v Córdoba. Not the most enticing sounding of games, but the clash features the already-relegated Córdoba, against a Granada side now under the chirpy stewardship of former Rayo boss José Ramón Sandoval. The club’s third coach of the season is targeting three more wins, built on the back of a morale-boosting victory last weekend at Getafe.
Granada v Córdoba - Saturday 16.00 CET