Plenty at stake in La Liga this weekend

Madrid, May 16 (IANS) With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid disputing the final of the Copa del Rey Friday night and the top three places in the league table already decided, matchday 36 in the Spanish La Liga is a slightly decaffeinated affair.

But that doesn’t mean it is devoid of emotion as the battle for fourth place and the dogfight to avoid relegation continue, reports Xinhua.

At the top of the table FC Barcelona, without the injured Lionel Messi, will be presented with the league trophy ahead of their match at home to Valladolid. With Valladolid sitting comfortably in mid-table and safe from relegation and Barca assured of the title, there is nothing to play for which hopefully will lead to an open attacking game between two sides with nothing but pride at stake.

There is a lot more at stake in Sevilla’s Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium as Sevilla take on Real Sociedad. Sevilla know a home win will give them a chance of qualifying for the Europa League while Real Sociedad need a win to stay in fourth place ahead of Valencia.

After losing 2-4 in San Sebastian three weeks ago, Valencia have watched Real Sociedad drop five points from two games and have drawn level with the Basque side in the battle for the last Champions League place. Roberto Soldado’s goals have been a key factor for Valencia and he will expect to add to his tally of 21 when his side visit mid-table Getafe Saturday. Valencia would do well to remember, that Getafe defeated Real Sociedad a fortnight ago and are capable of playing good attacking football.

The remaining games all focus on the drama at the bottom of the table. Granada and Osasuna both got good results last weekend to open up a breathing space over the bottom three and both know that a win in Granada’s Los Carmenes Stadium will assure their place in the elite next season.

Athletic Club Bilbao’s narrow win at home to Mallorca all but doomed Mallorca to the drop but leaves Athletic needing just one point to mathematically secure their top-flight future. Zaragoza entertain Athletic needing a win but boosted by a three-game unbeaten run which leaves them two points above Deportivo la Coruna.

A group of Deportivo fans hung a banner accusing Zaragoza of buying games in recent seasons at their club’s training ground Thursday. They will no doubt be hopeful their side can defeat Espanyol who travel to La Coruna with nothing at stake.

A 0-1 defeat in Valladolid ended Deportivo’s seven game unbeaten run but be that as it may, Deportivo still have a fighting chance of survival if they can take all three points Sunday. Failure to do so could harm their cause in more than one way as Athletic Bilbao would then kick-off in Zaragoza knowing they were already assured of survival.

Sunday kicks off with a virtually meaningless game between Levante, where the squad appears divided amid allegations of match fixing and Rayo Vallecano, who without striker Leo Baptistao, have fallen short in their attempt to qualify for Europe.

The round of games ends Monday with Mallorca entertaining Betis. Betis are aiming to qualify for Europe while the home side, who are without the suspended Andreu Fontas and Ximo, could well be the first side to be relegated should they lose.

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