LaLiga is back: the games that could decide the 2019/20 season
There is still plenty to play for in LaLiga, so we look at how the title race, the chase for European qualification and the relegation fight could shake out.
LaLiga is set to follow in the path of the Bundesliga and return behind closed doors, as the sporting world slowly moves back towards normality amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Thursday's derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis will kick things back off in Spain's top flight, three months after it was brought to a halt.
While there will be no fans in attendance, the stage is set for a truly fascinating run-in in LaLiga: the title, Champions League places and safety are still well and truly to play for.
We take a look at the fixtures that could prove key in deciding the final outcome:
Matchday 30: Sevilla v Barcelona, Real Sociedad v Real Madrid
With Sevilla and La Real heading into the coronavirus stoppage third and fourth respectively, there is every chance of a slip-up from Barcelona and/or Madrid in these tricky away games. Not only could they play a crucial role in deciding where the title ends up, but with just five points separating third from seventh at the resumption of play, the impact on Champions League and Europa League qualification could be important.
Matchday 30: Real Mallorca v Leganés
At the other end of the table, two teams that have spent the hiatus in the relegation zone will meet at Son Moix. Three points against a direct rival near the bottom would likely play a huge role in who ends up falling into the second tier.
Matchday 32: Getafe v Real Sociedad
These teams have a great opportunity to upset the established order and earn a place in the Champions League, leading to great anticipation around this clash at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. Getafe won their first meeting back in October 2-1, so La Real will be eager for a superior win in case the head-to-head record is needed to separate them in the standings.
Matchday 33: Barcelona v Atlético Madrid
Atlético earned a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou to win LaLiga in 2013-14 and Diego Simeone's side will need the same sort of grit and determination if they are to get a result that can boost their Champions League aspirations. For Barça it is one of four fixtures they have left against teams currently sitting in the top half, so a victory could be pivotal in their title defence.
Matchday 33: Real Madrid v Getafe
Barça's meeting with Atleti is arguably their toughest fixture left to play, so a home game against Getafe could set the stage for Madrid to launch a late charge for the title. However, Getafe, who have a Europa League last-16 tie with Inter still outstanding, will see it as a chance to enhance their Champions League bid.
Matchday 34: Espanyol v Leganés
Espanyol are six points adrift of safety at the foot of the table, so strong home form is going to be key for them – especially when they are up against the next-worst team in the league. Leganés triumphed 2-0 when they met at Butarque in December, so failure to win here would significantly hinder Espanyol's survival chances.
Matchday 35: Barcelona v Espanyol
The match against Leganés takes on even more significance when you consider a trip to Catalan rivals Barça is due to follow. Nothing less than three points will be acceptable for Quique Setién's side, though for Espanyol a positive result not only helps them but also hinders their neighbours' title chances. Add in the fact relegation-threatened pair Eibar and Leganés meet on the same matchday, there's a chance for a significant shake-up at the bottom.
Matchday 37: Getafe v Atlético Madrid, Real Sociedad v Sevilla
If the gap from third to seventh remains tight, then the penultimate set of fixtures may well be crucial. Victory here will likely have a huge impact on whether a team makes the Champions League, settles for the Europa League, or, in the worst-case scenario, slips outside the top six if Valencia and Villarreal put together a strong finish.
Matchday 38: Atlético Madrid v Real Sociedad
It certainly looks set to be a dramatic run-in for Atleti and La Real, with the last two rounds of matches appearing potentially make or break. Simeone's men have home advantage but fell to a 2-0 loss in their first meeting with the Basques in September. There is set to be plenty on the line at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Matchday 38: Espanyol v Celta
Should Espanyol, who last played in the second tier in 1993-94, manage to string a good run of results together then they could have a chance of completing a great escape on the final day at home to Celta, who were just one point above the bottom three when the season was suspended.
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