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By Sean Teixeira – Summer Staff Writer
Coming down towards the final quarter of the season, La Liga was set for an enthralling season finale. The races within the standings were left finely poised when play was suspended three months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic. The remaining 11 match days were set to determine a closely contested title race, a cluster of 7 teams vying for two Champions League and two Europa League slots, and the relegation battle between the bottom 6 teams that cannot feel secure right now. With the league set to resume this Thursday, June 11 as Sevilla take on local rival Real Betis, these storylines are set to pick up again albeit without spectators in the stadiums.
Looking at the Standings:
- Barcelona (58pts) and Real Madrid (56pts) are locked in one of the closest title races in recent memory.
- The Blaugrana hold a 2 point lead with 11 games to go
- Los Blancos have been chasing Barcelona most of the season, however they overtook them in the standings one game before the season was suspended when they defeated Barcelona 2-0 in El Clasico.
- Barca’s schedule includes difficult matches against Sevilla, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid
- Madrid’s remaining fixture list is highlighted by Villareal, Real Sociedad and Valencia
These fierce rivals will definitely be doing a lot of scoreboard watching and looking over their shoulder down the stretch of the season. Each match will feel like a must-win in order to keep pace with the other. It will be interesting to see how each team shapes up following the layoff as both sides have injured players that were otherwise ruled out for the season return, including Eden Hazard, Luis Suarez and Marco Asensio.
End of Season Prediction: Real Madrid, healthier and with avengence, retop Barcelona by 2 points to win La Liga
Fight For European Positions
- Sevilla (47pts) and Real Sociedad (46pts) currently occupy the final two Champions League positions while Getafe (46pts) and Atletico Madrid (45pts) sit in the final Europa League places
- Valencia (42pts) slightly trail this grouping
- Villarreal (38pts)and Granada (38 pts) lurk below, possibly looking to secure another Europa League position should Real Sociedad win the yet-to-be-scheduled Copa Del Rey Final, which would open another slot for the 7th placed finisher
This group of highly talented and competitive teams make La Liga as exciting as it is to watch. Just below the giants of Spain lies this group of 7 teams that are battling it out for the remaining chances to play in Europe’s elite competitions next season. Sevilla has been impressive much of the season and seem poised to hold their position in the Champions League. Atletico Madrid probably consider themselves favorites to land the other slot, as they are one of the few teams that can claim to toppling Liverpool this season. Sociedad and Getafe have both put together campaigns to be proud of and won’t let their positions go without a fight. A point worth noting, if Real Sociedad win the final of the Copa del Rey and finish in any of the European positions, the 7th placed finisher will be award Europa League qualification as well.
End of Season Prediction: Sevilla and Atletico Madrid claim 3rd and 4th while Real Sociedad and Valencia end in 5th and 6th, rounding off the European places
- Current Relegation Zone: Mallorca (25pts), Leganés (23pts) and Espanyol (20pts)
- Celta Vigo (26pts), Eibar (27pts) and Real Valladolid (29pts) sit just above the drop line
Relegation is difficult for any club to go through, but how about during an already down time for sport financing? The financial hit of dropping down a division is enormous in high level soccer, with television and sponsorship revenue significantly less in second and third divisions. The six clubs in the most danger at the bottom of La Liga are feeling this pressure now as the season is set to restart. Typically these teams will live off of their fan’s cheering and support down the stretch but the effort and desire must now come from within as the season progresses without supporters.
End of Season Prediction: Espanyol, Leganés and Eibar struggle to rebound in the final weeks leaving them in the relegation zone
What to Watch For
- Under health protocols, all matches will be played without fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic
- Temporary rules for remainder of season allow for 5 substitutions per team
- Lionel Messi is aiming to lead the league in both goals (19) and assists (12). He leads both statistics currently by 5 goals and 4 assists.
- Potentially high temperatures could result in water breaks in each half being instituted
- Due to construction to their home stadium, Real Madrid will be playing their home games at their reserve teams stadium at the training facility, Real Madrid City.
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