The destination of the championship in England has now been determined and – after a night of high drama – it seems as if Spain is following suit.
The penultimate weekend of the Primera Liga season was played on Saturday night with all ten matches kicking off at the same time to prevent any team gaining an unfair advantage.
With championship, relegation and European qualification issues all at stake, round 37 seemed destined to be a pivotal moment in La Liga’s season and FC Barcelona got off to an absolute flyer when Lionel Messi – who else? – found the back of the net away at Sevilla after just five minutes.
The Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan has not been the happiest of hunting grounds in recent years for the Catalans – they were eliminated from the Copa Del Rey here in January, for instance – but they appeared to put any fears to bed by going 3-0 up just after the hour mark.
With their only rivals, Real Madrid, only drawing at home to Athletic Bilbao the title was mathematically theirs but, as it happens, the fat lady had not even cleared her throat.
In the blink of an eye, ten-man Sevilla pulled it back to 3-2 with goals from former West Ham striker Frederic Kanoute and Brazil’s Luis Fabiano while over at the Santiago Bernabeu Gonzalo Higuain had nudged Real Madrid into the lead, paving the way for an eventual 5-1 win.
Unfortunately for Manuel Pellegrini and his team, Barcelona managed to hold out and record a win that surely confirms the retention of their title. There is still the small matter of a home game against Real Valladolid – while Real Madrid travel to Malaga – but one suspects that this should be no more than a formality on their way to a victory parade.
The one sting in the tail is that Valladolid actually have something to play for as they sit in the final relegation place separated only on goal difference from Racing Santander and Malaga, who occupy places 17 and 16 respectively.
Just a point would be akin to discovering a blossoming spring in the midst of a desert and could ensure their top flight survival for another season but it is hard to be optimistic for them when they have to earn that point at Camp Nou, of all places.
In fact, all of the relegation places are yet to be settled with any three from six mathematically in danger of dropping out. Rock bottom Xerez are just about hanging in there but need a win at Osasuna and a huge goal difference swing for them to be safe.
Above them Tenerife face a trip to La Mestalla to take on a Valencia side that has no concerns whatsoever with a third place finish already assured. It could be a good time to face Los Che but it is still an intimidating arena and not an easy place to win matches.
Racing play Sporting Gijon, who retained their top flight status with a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, and the smart money would be on them to secure the three points that would guarantee their own safety.
In the battle for qualification for the Champions League there is just one place to fight for – fourth. Sevilla remain in charge of their own destiny as they currently sit in that hallowed position and can join Europe’s elite with a win at Almeria. But if they slip-up they will find Mallorca lurking and, with the Balearic Islanders meeting mid-table Espanyol on the last day, you would back them to get the win they need to put pressure on Sevilla.
So another nervous weekend is in store in Spain and, for what it’s worth, my prediction is for Barca to be champions, Sevilla to secure fourth and Malaga to join Valladolid and Xerez through the trapdoor. But, then again, what do I know?
Tickets for most of this weekend’s La Liga matches are still available to compare and buy on tixdaq.com including FC Barcelona v Real Valladolid, Malaga CF v Real Madrid, Valencia CF v CD Tenerife and Mallorca v Espanyol. For all your football tickets, visit tixdaq.com