September 22, 2021

LaLiga Matchday 38 preview: Title race goes down to the final day

May 21, 2021

We’ve made it. There’s just one round of matches left in this season’s LaLiga Santander season where Real Madrid and Atletico are leading the race.

The dramatic results of the penultimate round mean that the title race goes down to the final day, with Atlético de Madrid leading city rivals Real Madrid by two points. The relegation battle is still very much alive too, with SD Huesca, Elche CF and Real Valladolid fighting for the one remaining survival spot and with the other two to join already-relegated SD Eibar in going down to LaLiga SmartBank.

Given that there is so much at stake and given that so many matches could have an impact on other teams, there will be seven LaLiga Santander fixtures taking place simultaneously at 6pm CEST on Saturday evening. In the title race, Real Madrid host Villarreal CF, who still have something to play for too as they want to secure Europa League football instead of entry to the inaugural Conference League. Meanwhile, Atlético de Madrid visit Real Valladolid, who are fighting for their lives as one of the teams in that aforementioned relegation battle.

Atleti know that if they win at the José Zorrilla then they will be champions no matter what happens elsewhere. But, if they fail to win at Valladolid then Real Madrid can pip them to the post with a victory over Villarreal. It could hardly be tighter.

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Atleti are used to doing things the hard way. Not only did they have to produce an epic comeback to defeat Osasuna 2-1 in the previous matchday, but, spooling further back, nine of the 10 Spanish championships they have won in their history have been decided on the final day. The last one was in 2013/14, when Diego Godín’s famous goal at the Camp Nou made history.

Funnily enough, Real Madrid have actually never managed to win the title when entering the final day in second position. On 10 occasions, they came into the final round in second and with mathematical possibilities of becoming champions, in 1934, 1935, 1936, 1953, 1960, 1966, 1981, 1984, 2010 and 2016. In this incredible season of firsts, it might be 11th time lucky for Los Blancos!

As well as hoping to throw a spanner in the works of the title race, Valladolid need three points for their own objectives. They must win and hope that results in the games involving Huesca and Elche go their way. Both of those sides have home fixtures to look forward to, with SD Huesca hosting Valencia CF and Elche welcoming Athletic Club to the east coast.

SD Eibar’s match against FC Barcelona is also being played at the same time because it could have an impact on the relegation battle. Even though the Basques are already certain to go down, a victory for the minnows over Lionel Messi and co. could impact Huesca and Elche’s fate. An Eibar win combined with defeats for Huesca and Elche would leave all three teams on 33 points; the ensuing triple tiebreaker would see Elche survive. But, a two-way tie on 33 points between Pacheta and Fran Escribá’s men, without Eibar in the mix, would save Huesca instead. It’s a complicated business and, with all the games taking place at the same unified time slot, that only adds to the excitement… and nerves!

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Also in play at that 6pm CEST time slot is the musical chairs game of the Europa League and Conference League spots. Fifth and sixth earns passage to the former, while seventh place means a ticket to the newly formed Conference League competition. Currently, Real Sociedad sit in fifth on 59 points, while Real Betis and Villarreal CF are sixth and seventh respectively on 58 points each. That means Real Sociedad’s visit to CA Osasuna and Real Betis’ trip across the country to face RC Celta both mean a lot, while the Yellow Submarinewill be fighting for position in that potential title decider away at Real Madrid.

There are three other fixtures in this final weekend where there isn’t quite as much on the line. On Friday night, Levante UD and Cádiz CF face off knowing that they’re both long saved from relegation. Both coaches have been rotating their line-ups since securing survival, giving opportunities to some of their talented youngsters. Some of the stars of the future could, therefore, be on show.

Then, on Sunday, Granada CF host Getafe CF in a clash that could mark the end of an era for both clubs, as big summers of change are expected at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes and the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. Sevilla FC vs D. Alavés will be the final fixture of what has been an incredible LaLiga Santander season. By the time that game kicks off, we’ll already know which team is the LaLiga champion for 2020/21.

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