Madrid (Spain), June 2 (IANS) Battles to bag the final European qualification spot and to avoid relegation will dominate the proceedings on the 38th and final matchday of the 2022/23 La Liga season taking place on Sunday.
There is still a lot to be decided though Barcelona has bagged the title with a couple of rounds to spare.
Four teams still maintain hopes of securing the seventh place to take the final European qualification spot, that of the Conference League, and this quartet is separated by just one point. Then, there are six teams still at risk of relegation and they’re separated by just two points, so anything can happen over the course of the final 90 minutes of the season.
The 10 fixtures of Matchday 38 are split across two kick-off times, as the five matches that have implications for the Conference League and top half of the table are taking place early in the evening while the five fixtures that will determine the outcome of the relegation battle are starting a couple of hours later.
Race for Conference League spot
Going into the final day, Osasuna currently boast 50 points and occupy the seventh place, knowing that a victory will guarantee a return to European competition for the first time since 2007.
That’s easier said than done, however, because Los Rojillos will be taking on a direct rival, ninth-placed Girona, who are just one point behind in the standings. These are two excellently-coached teams and they should produce a thrilling spectacle, one that Osasuna will have a home advantage for at a packed-out El Sadar.
Athletic Club of Bilbao may have lost their past two matches, but they still have a chance of sneaking into seventh by the full-time whistle of the season.
They travel to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to take on former champion Real Madrid and need to win that fixture and also hope that Osasuna vs Girona is either a draw or an away win. The Basques havent won away at Real Madrid since 2005, but they were coached by Ernesto Valverde that day and, as the current coach, he’ll lead Los Leones to the capital feeling confident.
The 10th-placed Rayo Vallecano are also just one point behind Osasuna, so will look to capitalise if other results go their way. The capital city side travel to Mallorca on the final day for what will be departing coach Andoni Iraola’s final match at the club. Whether they secure European football or not, Isi Palazon, Álvaro García, Raúl de Tomas and co. will want to take the three points.
The other team that could still finish in the top seven is Sevilla FC, who’ll visit a Real Sociedad side that has already secured a Champions League spot. Given that Sevilla won their seventh Europa League title on Wednesday, they’ll be joining La Real in next year’s Champions League but could yet shake up the race for seventh and deny the other contenders a European ticket.
Also scheduled in the early kick-off time is a clash between Villarreal and Atlético Madrid. While these teams are already certain of their European status for next season, Atleti are jostling for position with Real Madrid for second place.
Tightest relegation battle in years
The later fixtures will decide who’ll join the already-relegated Elche and Espanyol in going down to the lower division. Real Valladolid currently occupy the dreaded 18th position with 39 points, but they face a direct rival as they host Getafe, who are 14th with 41 points. Therefore, both teams have their fate in their own hands, as a Real Valladolid win would see them leapfrog Los Azulones.
Besides those two, there are four other clubs at risk. Celta are currently just above the drop zone and will have to face champions Barcelona at home. But, the Galician side have a good record against Barca at the Abanca Balaídos, as they’ve lost just one of their past seven home league games against the Catalan outfit.
Almería are another of the at-risk clubs and they’ll visit already-relegated Espanyol on the final day. However, the Andalusians have the worst away record in La Liga, so that won’t be an easy game.
As for Cádiz and Valencia, they’re both two points clear of the drop zone and within touching distance of safety, but nathing is secured yet. Los Amarillos will visit Elche on the final day and Los Che will go away to Real Betis. Both Cádiz and Valencia have been playing well in recent weeks, so will look to finish the job on Sunday night, when the final standings of this dramatic La Liga season will be fully confirmed.