The relegation picture along with the race for fourth place and the rest of the European spots could get a little clearer this week in Spain. Malaga and Valencia meet with a win being the only real helpful option for either side if they hope to keep pressure on Real Sociedad in fourth. At the bottom of the table, Real Zaragaza and Celta Vigo face off with both teams in desperate need of points.
Here's a preview of all the action this week in La Liga.
Friday, April 19th
(21:00 CET, 3:00 p.m. ET)
The mission for both teams is fairly simple, even if the ultimate goal is quite different. Rayo are six points out of a potential European spot and need to start winning if they want to make a serious run at it. Mallorca got a big win last week over Celta Vigo to pull within a point of escaping the relegation zone. They too need wins and points in they want to make a run at saving their top flight lives for next season. Simple right?
Saturday, April 20th
Granada vs. Real Valladolid
(16:00 CET, 10:00 a.m. ET)
Granada hasn't won since early February and have slowly sunk down the table to a precarious perch in 17th, one point from falling into the relegation zone. Real Valladolid aren't going to contend for a European spot but they aren't in relegation danger either, so at this point it's all about playing for pride...and possibly ruining Granada's hopes of staying in La Liga.
Real Madrid vs. Real Betis
(18:00 CET, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Real Betis pulled off a huge three goal comeback to earn a point in last week's Seville Derby and remain in the fight for a European spot. This week's task is even trickier with a trip to face Real Madrid on the docket. Madrid are preparing for their Champions League semifinal first leg, but that hasn't stopped them from holding off Atletico Madrid for second place. Betis have the quality to pull an upset and they might need it if they want to play in Europe next season.
(20:00 CET, 2:00 p.m. ET)
Barcelona are again expected to go with a younger lineup with Champions League play looming in the mid--week. Lionel Messi's recovery from a hamstring problem continues and there's likely zero chance of him starting as Tito Vilanova likely won't want to risk him. Then again, every point moves then closer to securing the league title and allowing them to fully concentrate on Europe. Levante are just looking to recover from two straight tough losses that saw them lose by a combined score of 9-1.
Valencia vs. Malaga
(22:00 CET, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Valencia have salvaged results in their last two games thanks to last second goals and have kept themselves in a European spot because of it. This week they get a shot at Malaga, the team one spot ahead of them in the standings. Both teams know that a draw doesn't help and could potentially allow Real Sociedad to expand their lead in fourth. This is the only thing on both sides' plate so they should be going all out for a win, meaning we should enjoy a great match.
Sunday, April 21st
Getafe vs. Espanyol
(12:00 CET, 6:00 a.m. ET)
Getafe's slim European dreams took a hit with their loss against Valladolid last week so they'll be looking for full points against Espanyol to keep their hopes alive.
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Athletic Bilbao
(17:00 CET, 11:00 a.m. ET)
Depor's last season phoenix-like rise continued last week with their fourth straight when that launched them out of the relegation zone (where they'd been since November) and up to 16th place. The work is not done though as Depor need to keep earning points to ensure they don't slip back down the table. Athletic Bilbao have lost two straight but they're still a strong side that should give Depor a tough challenge.
Osasuna vs. Real Sociedad
(19:00 CET, 1:00 p.m. ET)
Real Sociedad have won two straight games and opened up a four point advantage over Malaga and Valencia in fourth place. The idea of Real playing in the Champions League next season is becoming more possibly with every passing week and Real are in the driver's seat. If they can keep winning or at least getting points, they will have a great chance on holding on to fourth. Osasuna have lost two straight and are trying stay above the relegation fray, so this is a game Real should be winning if they fancy themselves a Champions League team.
Sevilla FC vs. Atletico Madrid
(21:00 CET, 3:00 p.m. ET)
Atletico Madrid would likely love to catch Real Madrid for second place but Madrid don't drop points much so Atletico is going to have to keep on playing well and winning if they want to be ready to take advantage of any slip. Atletico hammered Granada 5-0 last week after two straight draws, so they'll be looking to keep up the momentum against Sevilla.
Monday, April 22nd.
Celta Vigo vs Real Zaragoza
(22:00 CET, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Yet another relegation six-pointer (it seems like we've had a lot of this lately) ends this week's schedule in Spain. Zaragoza still haven't won a match in 2013 while Celta haven't won since February, hence they're both in the bottom three. Nothing Zaragoza has done recently makes me believe they're suddenly going to turn it on so this could be a big chance for Celta to pick up points as they try to save their top flight future.