Football, served with added spice

Rayo-Real Madrid, Atlético-Málaga, Barcelona-Sporting. Another thrilling weekend of Liga action, with two matches that pit title aspirants against sides trying to flee the fiery pit of Segunda. Only Málaga, given their aurea mediocritas of 42 points, go into the round of fixtures with no other objective other than sport for sport’s sake. Rayo and Sporting are battling at the bottom of the table, where the situation has been altered somewhat after Getafe’s win in Anoeta. Rayo were on the verge of a precious three points on Wednesday evening, but a stoppage time Málaga goal cost them two points. Almost at the same stage of the game, Sporting scored a late winner to keep their survival hopes alive. But only that.

Saturday will be another tense match day, with the intrigue maintained until the end. When the early match in Vallecas is over neither home fans or away supporters will know exactly to what extent they should be satisfied or disappointed. It won’t be until the end of the day when the balance will be considered. This is the positive side of the Liga model; that all the games are knotted together. During most of the season it isn’t as apparent as it is now, when there are just a few games left and what a team does or doesn’t do is as important as what their title rivals or fellow relegation battlers do or don’t do. These final fixtures will be magnificent, and I think more so this year than any other.

The three games are not evenly matched, but that does not necessarily mean the results are already decided. Cristiano Ronaldo will be absent for the first time in La Liga this season, which hands Luis Suárez a yard of advantage in the race for the Pichichi and European Golden Boot awards. Diego Godín is missing for Atlético and praying (while others pray for him) that he will be fit to face Bayern Munich. Rayo will have to do without Diego Llorente, who is subject to the terms of his loan deal and prevented from facing his parent club, and it remains to be seen if Abelardo will rotate his team in Camp Nou, sparing some of his key players for more attainable objectives. It’s going to good football, served up in generous portions and with a healthy side dish of spice. Let’s enjoy it.