La Liga 2012, Week 36 Preview And Fixtures: Real Madrid Look To Clinch Championship In Bilbao

Real Madrid CF head coach Jose Mourinho looks on during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Sevilla FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu o. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

This thing is almost over, Liga fans. The teams are sprinting--or in the case of Racing, standing and having a smoke--to the finish line. And if Madrid win (or Barça lose), then we can, in the immortal words of Han Solo, blow this thing and go home. (Eyooo)

It's almost over. La Liga season are marathons--maybe not the 162-game insanity of major league baseball, but they are marathons--and the runners are finally pulling into the finish. Real Madrid, the club that has seemed destined to win the Liga since they opened up a 10 point lead against arch-rival FC Barcelona back in March, can clinch the title on Wednesday with a victory over Athletic Bilbao in San Mamés. In fact, all they have to do is win one of their next three games--against Bilbao, Granada then Mallorca--to win their first Liga title in four years.

So, as the season--and the Pep Guardiola era in Barcelona--draws to a close, it's fitting that we have a matchup between historical rivals and up-and-comers to cap things off. It has been a long, wild ride.

Oh, and there's the small matter of the individual trophies--and records--still to deal with: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are neck and neck for the leading scorer trophy. I'd bet a good chunk of my money on little Leo, considering Barcelona will probably help him win it just like Madrid helped Cristiano win it last year. And it's also possible that Real Madrid wil reach 100 points in the league, a laughably huge number that no other team has ever accomplished--they need to win all their remaining matches to accomplish this. So, there's always something to watch for.

Tuesday, May 1

Getafe vs. Racing Santander

12:00 CET (6:00 AM EST)

Certain-to-remain-mid-table Getafe against already-descended Racing away? No, thanks.

Pick: 0-0 to nobody.

Granada vs. Espanyol

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

This one is a little more interesting, though not hugely so: Granada, at least, will be fighting to avoid relegation. Espanyol is pretty much cemented into the just-below-Europe spots, especially after their loss to Sporting this weekend, so they won't have tons to play for. Could be exciting. Probably won't be, though.

Pick: 1-2 to Espanyol.

Sporting Gijón vs. Villarreal

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Sneaky-good game here. Both sides are battling desperately to avoid relegation, and might actually be each others' main competitors. If you like drama, this one could be a good match for you; if you like open football, maybe not so much, as Villarreal would probably feel OK about a draw here.

Pick: 1-1 to Villarreal.

Wednesday, May 2

Atlético Madrid vs. Real Sociedad

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Could be a good match, as both sides are exciting young bunches; Atleti probably has more to play for (Europe), while la Real is pretty confidently not going down.

Pick: 2-0 to Atleti.

FC Barcelona vs. Málaga

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Barcelona are good. And they'll want to hammer Málaga so that Leo Messi will be able to score tons. Not a good set up for a Málaga side looking to finish third. I imagine the nouveau-riche malagueños will put up a fight...but ultimately will be dismantled like so many others.

Pick: 4-1 to Messi.

Sevilla vs. Real Betis

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

It's the Sevilla derby! And neither side is being relegated! It's important to remember how important this match is to sevillanos, so plan accordingly: this one will have some pretty fun to watch tension. I'm in.

Pick: 2-1 to Sevilla.

Zaragoza vs. Levante

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

The second worst of the 20:00 matches, and it's still pretty damn good: both sides will be fighting for their lives, with Levante clinging on to a European spot, and Zaragoza willing themselves towards another stay in Primera. Could be very fascinating...but with the Sevilla derby and the Barcelona match, I doubt many will watch.

Pick: 1-0 to Zaragoza. Upset alert!

Mallorca vs. Rayo Vallecano

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Man, Rayo is in a tailspin. And I thought they'd be able to keep that form up. Oh, well. They're not going down, that's for sure. But that's one of the only things we can say for sure about this side.

Pick: 3-1 to Mallorca.

Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Madrid

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST)

And here we are at last. If Real Madrid win (or, you know, if Málaga beat Barcelona), then los blancos and Jose Mourinho will celebrate their first Liga title in four years. The stage is set. And if they do win, don't expect them to hang out on the field for too long--I can't imagine the Basque fans will be too happy about it.

Pick: 1-2 to Los Blancos.

Valencia vs. Osasuna

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST)

Could be a good match here, too. Though I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to watch Athletic-Real Madrid (unless you're a Barça fan). Osasuna are knocking on Europe's door; and Valencia are knocking on Europe's cellar--any more losses and they'll be in contention to fall down to the Europa League places.

Pick: 3-2 to Valencia.

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