A frantic scramble to avoid relegation takes centre stage in match day 37 of Spain’s Liga Santander, with no less than seven teams not yet safe from the chop to Segunda. Only five points separate Espanyol in nineteenth place from Valencia six places above them, which implies each of the teams in between have a chance to survive the drop if they gain maximum points. There are at least three winner takes all relegation six pointers with Cadiz versus Celta Vigo, Real Valladolid’s visit to Almeria and Valencia’s duel with Espanyol all gaining added significance.
Espanyol’s wretched form means they face the greatest danger to join Elche in Spain’s second division next season. The city of Barcelona’s less celebrated team travel to Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium on the back of a poor run of results that has yielded just two victories in ten La Liga outings. The hosts have on the other hand won four out of their last six matches, including an acrimonious 1-0 victory over ousted champions Real Madrid in a game tainted by vicious racist attacks on Vinicius Junior. A section of the Mestalla is to be closed as part of punishment to the club.
Cadiz are one of three teams in the final relegation slot on 38 points along with Getafe and Real Valladolid. Manager Sergio Gonzalez is counting on strong home form in match ups with direct relegation rivals to bridge a two point deficit on visiting Celta Vigo. Newly promoted Almeria, who sit a point above the trio, are the bookmakers slight favourites to overcome Real Valladolid. The hosts will however take nothing for granted given their poor head to head record with their fellow newcomers as they’ve won just one of their previous eight encounters with Valladolid.
Liga Santander action commences with one Saturday fixture. Sevilla boss Jose Luis Mendilibar will use the visit of Real Madrid to gauge his team’s strength ahead of next week’s Europa League final against Italy’s AS Roma. Sevilla twice changed managers earlier this season after flirting with relegation but a strong run of form under the former Eibar coach has propelled the Andalusians to mid-table safety and a place in their seventh Europa League final. Real wing flier Vinicius Junior is eligible to play after having his red card in the Valencia debacle overturned.
Newly crowned champions Barcelona are to bid farewell to two of the club’s longest serving players in their match against Mallorca. Long serving midfield anchor Sergio Busquets, who has won a record 11 Liga Santander crowns, plays his final game at Camp Nou after deciding not to renew his contract whereas left Jordi Alba is leaving eleven years after rejoining the club from Valencia. Barcelona’s Pichichi chasing striker Robert Lewandowski is expected to lead the line as he tries to improve on his 23 goal haul.
Sevilla v Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao v Elche,
Atletico Madrid v Real Sociedad,
Cadiz v Celta Vigo,
Barcelona v Mallorca,
Getafe v Osasuna,
Girona v Real Betis,
Rayo Vallecano v Villarreal,
Almeria v Real Valladolid,
Valencia v Espanyol