Things are heating up at the bottom of La Liga as four teams are battling to not be the one left standing when the music stops. Meanwhile, near the top of the table, Malaga can't separate itself from Real Sociedad and Valencia, who are pressuring it for a Champions League play that it might not be able to use.
Teams in La Liga have only 12 league matches left this season. While the title is nearly wrapped up, there's still lot to play for with European spots still up for grabs and plenty to be decided at the bottom of the table. Here's a look at all this week's action from Spain.
Friday, March 8
Real Betis vs. Osasuna
(21:30 CET, 3:30 p.m. ET)
After a rough patch early in the year, Real Betis has rebounded nicely with win and draw from its last two matches. The points have moved it back up into seventh place and back into contention for a European spot. Osasuna had its winning streak snapped last week by Athletic Bilbao but it remains safely above the relegation zone. This is an important game for both teams ,as they both need points for very different reasons.
Saturday, March 9
(16:00 CET, 10 a.m. ET)
Both Rayo and Espanyol have stalled out of late, with both sides in the midst of losing steaks. After an amazing mid-season surge, Espanyol is winless in its last two matches, though all the wins before this slight slump have them in a comfortable position. Rayo was flirting with a European spot but two losses and a draw have slowed it down as well.
Real Valladolid vs. Malaga
(18:00 CET, Noon ET)
Despite no wins in its last two league matches, Malaga has remained in fourth place thanks to the teams behind it failing to take advantage. A trip to mid-table Valladolid might be just the thing Malaga needs to turn their fortunes around, but you'll forgive them if they're more focused on their Champions League second leg match against FC Porto on Wednesday. At this point Manuel Pellegrini's side is tempting fate by letting Valencia and Socidedad stay close to them; we'll have to see if it finally bites them in the ass this week.
Barcelona vs. Deportivo La Coruña
(20:00 CET, 2 p.m. ET)
Oh Barcelona, it's a difficult time for you isn't it? Two straight soul crushing defeats against Real Madrid, your starting goalkeeper suspended for four games (under appeal), basically the entire team out of form. Oh yeah, they have to play AC Milan on Tuesday is a must-win game. Before that big day, there's the little issue of dealing with lowly Depor, who are sadly getting ever closer to ending their stay in the top division. Losing to Madrid is one thing, losing to Depor would be another, even with the still sizable lead that Barca has at the top of the table.
(22:00 CET, 4 p.m. ET)
This is far bigger game for Mallorca than it is for Sevilla. Unai Emery's side isn't going to get a European spot but it won't be relegated either, so that's good. At this point, it's just bout finishing strong and playing with pride. Mallorca, on the other hand, is fighting for survival, rabid wolverine style! Before its massive 2-1 win over Granada last week, Mallorca hadn't won since Dec. 22. It is still in the drop zone, but it has pulled itself within four points of safety. Now the hard part, it needs to keep winning.
Sunday, March 10
Athletic Bilbao vs. Valencia
(12:00 CET, 7 a.m. ET)
Fair is Athletic, but not so fair as fickle. After four games without a win, Athletic Bilbao finally got back in the win column last week and managed to gain a better foothold in the table. It's been a disappointing and mostly awful year for Los Leones. It's looking like it will avoid a shocking relegation, which is good. Valencia was knocked out of the Champions League by PSG and can now focus entirely on trying to get ahead of Malaga and making a return to Europe's biggest club tournament next season. They've wasted chances to move past Malaga with two straight draws and this is a game they should be winning.
(17:00 CET, Noon ET)
May your mid-table battle be spirited and entertaining, but sadly, I'm not interested. Sorry, everybody, but the result of this match isn't going to change anything in terms of European spots or relegation.
Celta Vigo vs. Real Madrid
(19:00 CET, 2 p.m. ET)
Madrid survived its Champions League tie against Manchester United and can now breathe a little before resuming its march to a 10th European title. No team in Spain is playing better than Los Blancos right now and there's little reason to believe Celta Vigo can get a result, but Madrid has done some wonky stuff in the league this year. Celta need points to get out of the drop zone and if Madrid takes its foot off the gas, you never know what might happen.
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Sociedad
(21:00 CET, 4 p.m. ET)
Atletico Madrid failed to close to gap on first-place Barcelona to nine points last week with a less than impressive scoreless draw against Malaga. They've also suddenly have Real Madrid back on their tales, lurking only two points back for second place. One would imagine that if Atletico can finish third and beat Madrid in the Copa del Rey final, that would be just fine. Finishing second and beating Madrid in the final would be even better, but they need to play better to do it.
Sociedad is embroiled in a battle of its own to either hold on to a Europa League spot or catch Malaga for a Champions League spot. This is without a doubt the best match of the week on paper; hopefully it will live up to the billing.
Monday, March 11
Real Zaragoza vs. Granada
(20:30 CET, 3:30 p.m. ET)
The week concludes with a huge relegation six-pointer between Zaragoza and Granada. Zaragoza haven't won since December but the futility of the three teams behind them have kept them out of the drop zone. Granada have lose three straight matches to slump within two points of the drop zone. Talk about two teams that need a win desperately.
This may not be the prettiest soccer match you'll ever see, but you can't ignore the weight a result could carry for either team.
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