Every year tends to end the same way--at least in sports: some teams, and their fans, face the ultimate triumph of accomplishing their goals, some head home dejected, seeing their side fall when it matters most. In these cases, I always think of the Terminator movies: as the season creeps towards the final weeks, you can feel Judgment Day approaching. But, as in the first two Terminator films, Judgment Day tends to be put off--new, unexpected results pop up, and teams remain afloat, alive to fight another day.
But, like John Connor says at the end of Terminator 3, he always knew Judgment Day was coming--he just didn't want to hear about it: "it was never our destiny to stop Judgment Day, it was merely to survive it." And that's what about five teams towards the bottom of Primera will try to do next weekend. This weekend, they only postponed it.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger's terminator said: "Judgement Day is inevitable."
Zaragoza: one step closer to salvation. They take on a Getafe side next weekend that will probably only take the pitch in order to earn the bags and bags of cash that sides get towards the end of the year. And yes, I do mean bags--literally. They're paid bags filled with cash from other teams simply to try to win. It's common here.
I'm pretty sure that Athletic Bilbao is already qualified for next year's Europa League, thanks to their participation in the final; if not, they're pretty far outside looking in. I do expect them to beat Atletico Madrid in the final, however.
Mallorca! Who woulda guessed, amirite?! Unfortunately, they are currently unlikely to make it into Europe this season, despite having the sixth seed at the moment. Why? Well, they have to go to Madrid to take on Real Madrid next weekend; and los blancos will be looking to win, and cement their legacy as one of the greatest Liga sides of all time, by winning 100 points.
I just talked about Madrid. Let's talk about Granada: this is a pretty mediocre side. In many other years, they would've gone back down to Segunda. But not this season. Their actions at the end of this match--including hurling a filled water bottle into the referees face, then screaming that he's "dead" may not have endeared them to anyone, either.
Ah, Rayo. I don't know what to say anymore. They were a sight to behold for a while there; now, they're crashing at the worst possible time. The good news? They have bottom-feeder Sporting at home next weekend, and hopefully their home faithful will be able to rally around them and send them to a season-saving win.
Villarreal are not making this easy on their fans, are they? They should have been clear of the drop zone weeks ago, but they just keep hanging around. Look, it's not likely that they'll go down. But it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. And Valencia? Probably third place. Which is pretty much first in many other leagues.
Osasuna was the only side that cared here, as la Real had no investment in this match--they're already officially above the drop zone. Osasuna would be a fun side to have in Europe next year, and they're going to have to hope for a loss or two next weekend, combined with a victory away at already-done Racing. It could happen.
The race for fourth place in La Liga will go down to the final day of the season, thanks to Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid side. Malaga scored in the first half and were on top for much of the game, but Atletico put together a fantastic performance in the final 30 minutes of the game to pull off a 2-1 win at the Vicente Calderon.
Malaga's game-opening goal was an absolute stunner. Eliseu was the scorer, netting an outstanding volley from 35 yards out. Following a free kick, Isco had a shot blocked by an Atletico Madrid defender and the ball popped up in the air and out of the penalty area. The ball fell to Eliseu, who hit a perfect low volley with his left foot that looked like it was on a rope. Thibaut Courtois didn't have a chance to see it with all of the traffic in front of him and it zipped into the back of the net.
In surprising and similar fashion, Koke got Atletico Madrid back into the game in the 70th minute, scoring on a great volley with his right foot after a corner kick that looked eerily similar to Eliseu's goal. Malaga made two attacking substitutions in response, bringing on Ruud van Nistelrooy and Seba Fernandez, but that move backfired. Adrian scored the winner in the 80th minute, tapping in a simple finish set up by a Falcao header.
Malaga are still in fourth place, but have some work to do on the last day. They're currently on 55 points with Atleti on 53. Levante and Mallorca are both on 52. If Malaga draw and Atletico Madrid win, Simeone's side will take fourth place. The goal differential is close enough between the teams that Mallorca or Levante could easily pass Malaga.
A four goal haul by Lionel Messi was more than enough to sink Espanyol as Barcelona took out their La Liga and Champions League frustrations on their local rivals. It didn't take too long for Messi to get going, and he did so in pretty spectacular fashion in the 12th minute. The little forward dusted himself off after Victor Sanchez fouled him thirty-plus yards from goal, then sent a wonderful curling free kick that flicked off the wall and ended up in the top corner.
Although Barcelona wouldn't score again until the second half, Espanyol weren't much of a threat save for a Joan Verdu free kick that flashed just wide, and the hosts were in complete control. They'd double their lead through a rather dubious penalty that Messi was more than happy to convert, waiting until Cristian Alvarez committed before rolling into the bottom corner for his 70th goal of the season.
More was to come from the Argentine. Ten minutes later, immediately after Vladimir Weiss had a shot cleared off the line, Messi struck again, displaying a phenomenal touch to latch onto an Adriano through ball and them slotting calmly past Alvarez to make it 3-0 - and notching his fourteenth hattrick of the season in the process. The fourth came in short order after Sergio Busquets was fouled in the box, and Messi converted again for his 72nd goal of the season.