The pressure is off champions Barcelona who travel to Celta. Elsewhere, Getafe, Sevilla and Valencia battle for 4th place while Huesca could be relegated.
Plumes of smoke have been spotted pouring out of the fabled AS Oracle, along with a strange, burning rubber smell. What could it be telling us about Week 36 of LaLiga?
Sevilla – Leganés (Friday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Leganés are safe for another season and that is an achievement to be applauded given their budget. The Cucumber Growers have bloodied a few notable noses along the way, not least that of the champions back in September, but Sevilla boss Joaquín Caparrós will have circled this game with a big red pen as he seeks to ensure Champions League football next season. The Andalusians are neck and neck with Getafe but face Atlético and Athletic in their last two. The visit of Lega is a must-win.
Levante – Rayo (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: draw
A couple of draws will be good enough for Levante to ensure survival and the Frogs won’t be expecting to get much out of Atlético on the final day but for Rayo nothing but victory will do in the Ciutat de València. Paco Jémez’s side showed their Jekyll and Hyde nature by beating Real Madrid last weekend after getting tonked 5-0 by Sevilla a week earlier and the visitors have little choice to go all out on the east coast. Levante can afford to adopt a cautious approach and will aim to shut this one down without taking too many risks on the front foot.
Espanyol – Atlético (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: draw
Two sides with absolutely nothing to play for meet in the RCD: Atlético are practically assured of second place – they’d have to lose their last three and Real Madrid win their remaining fixtures to be overtaken by their city rivals – while the Parakeets are eight points off sixth place. Seventh may be a route into Europe still and that is still achievable for Eusebio’s side. A disinterested Atlético scraped past Valladolid at home last week and may be just distracted enough by the beckoning beach to drop a couple of points in Catalonia.
Alavés – Real Sociedad (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Alavés have spent 24 weeks in the European places this season, rising as high as second at one point, but have slipped to eighth after a run of seven games without a win. The dream is still alive – three points separate the Basques from their neighbours Athletic in seventh – but it will be all but over if Abelardo can’t muster a win at home against La Real. Imanol has done a sterling job since he relieved Asier Garitano of the big chair but he’s only managed one victory outside Anoeta, against Real Madrid back in January.
Celta – Barcelona (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Celta are still not quite out of danger, although a six-point buffer between the Galicians and Rayo in 19th and the fact they host the Madrid side on the final day should be a sufficient cushion to ensure survival. There is plenty to suggest they can finish the job and hit the 40-point mark on Saturday though with Ernesto Valverde likely to rest as many first-teamers as possible (Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets are suspended anyway) ahead of the return leg against Liverpool. Huesca held Barça B to a draw at home; Celta can go one better with Fran Escribá’s full squad available for this one.
Getafe – Girona (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
Girona did Getafe a favour last week by beating Sevilla – their first triumph in seven games – and halted a run of six straight defeats to lift themselves out of the relegation zone. At the same time Geta managed to lose away at Real Sociedad, where a win would have taken them three points clear of their Champions League challengers. This may not look like the game of the week on paper but both sides desperately need the win and no holds will be barred in the Coliseum where Getafe have the joint-meanest defence in the division, conceding just 11 this season.
Eibar – Betis (Sunday 14:00) Prediction: home win
These two sides have been Quiniela Kryptonite all season, unable to string a meaningful run of results together at any stage of the campaign and occupying positions 11 and 12 in the table as a result. Quique Setién needs the points more to bolster his application to remain at Betis for another season but Eibar picked up just a second away win of the season at Valencia – who had both eyes on the Europe League semis – last weekend, which will provide a morale boost. Survival was José Luis Mendilibar’s remit, thrashing Real Madrid at Ipurua merely a bonus. This is a free hit for the home side, who will be playing with considerably less baggage than Setién will arrive carrying.
Real Madrid – Villarreal (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: draw
There are few ways left to describe just how inept Real Madrid’s season has been and even the return of Zinedine Zidane has failed to stop the rot. There will have been no shortage of punters backing Rayo last time out, something that would have been bold to say the least in recent history with Real Madrid holding a 10-0 record against the suburban side in Primera before last weekend. There is little left for the Madrid manager to do this season but mentally separate the wheat from the chaff and the absence of Karim Benzema for the visit of Villarreal leaves him without his only form striker. Gareth Bale has been out of sorts lately and even the return of Vinicius probably won’t be enough to stop the Submarine, who are safe and have little else to do this season, from going for it against a side that gave up the ghost weeks ago.
Valladolid – Athletic (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Athletic’s away record gives Valladolid some hope of getting something positive out of the visit of the Lions and the Castilla y León side have been swinging to get out of trouble in recent weeks, picking up five points from their last four games and putting up a scrap in the Metropolitano a week ago. Athletic are seventh and two points off automatic Europa League qualification so won’t be taking this one lightly either but they struggle for goals outside San Mamés. A draw here and victory at Rayo may do it for Valladolid, who face Valencia on the final day, and Sergio will be more focused on keeping Athletic out that doing anything foolhardy.
Huesca – Valencia (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
In all likelihood, Huesca are going back down to Segunda and that is a shame as they have been good value on their first-ever season in the top flight. A six-game unbeaten run at this stage of the campaign also deserves more reward but the battling Aragonese side have been unable to turn draws into victories and will rue surrendering leads against Celta and Levante while not taking full advantage of facing Barça’s reserves a few weeks ago. Valencia have bigger fish to fry in Europe and Marcelino will field a side with that in mind, giving Huesca the opportunity to bag three points and take the relegation dogfight down to the wire.