Atletico Madrid and Sevilla FC battle for third place in La Liga
MADRID: Sevilla will secure Champions League qualification with a point against Atletico Madrid on Sunday while the winner would be on pole position to finish third in La Liga.
A third consecutive draw at home to Mallorca on Wednesday saw Sevilla miss out on the chance to seal their place in the top four, but they still only need a draw in their last two games to be sure.
Atletico Madrid’s away win in Elche was enough to guarantee Atleti will play in the Champions League next season, despite a turbulent season for the Spanish champions last year.
Sevilla are five points clear of Real Betis and hold the upper hand against their city rivals, so it would take a remarkable turnaround for their positions to be reversed.
But two wins in their last 10 games leave Sevilla in need of a boost, with reports suggesting Julen Lopetegui may not continue as manager next season after a hugely disappointing few weeks.
Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan fans whistled when they failed to break down Mallorca in midweek.
“The fans are angry with the coach when they don’t win, it makes sense,” Lopetegui said.
“Obviously I’m worried that we didn’t win, but there are two games left and we have to fight for what we’ve been fighting for all season.”
Sevilla were Real Madrid’s closest challengers for most of the campaign, but they fell in the title race and lost to Betis in the Copa del Rey before heading to West Ham in the Europa League.
It means Lopetegui’s side end the season with a groan and a defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano this weekend could create a nervy ending, should Betis beat struggling Granada at home.
Sevilla play at home against Athletic Bilbao on the final day while Betis are out against already-crowned champions Real Madrid, who have rested players ahead of the Champions League final against Liverpool on May 28.
Atletico Madrid are away at Real Sociedad to finish and third place is worth securing for Diego Simeone’s side, given that positions towards the top of La Liga net teams around seven million. euro per seat.
“It’s been an inconsistent season,” Simeone said Wednesday night. “The goal of qualifying for the Champions League has been achieved, which is very important for the club.”
Atletico are unlikely to catch Barcelona, who are five points clear in second and play at Getafe on Sunday before finishing at home to Villarreal.
After a disappointing April, in which Barça were knocked out of the Europa League by Eintracht Frankfurt, then lost at home to Cadiz and Rayo Vallecano, Barça have resumed, with three straight wins against Mallorca, Betis and Celta Vigo.
Villarreal and Real Sociedad are still in the hunt for Europa League qualification and face off at La Ceramica on Sunday.
After their sensational Champions League run against Liverpool came to an end, Villarreal bounced back with a draw at home to Sevilla and a crushing 5-1 victory over Rayo.
Real Sociedad, however, are three points ahead of them in sixth.
At the other end of the table, two points each separate Granada, Cadiz, Mallorca and Alaves, with 19th-placed Alaves against bottom club Levante and hoping to keep their survival hopes alive.
Mallorca are at home to Rayo while Cadiz host Real Madrid, who are likely to rotate again, although Karim Benzema is one goal clear of passing Raul to become Madrid’s second-highest goalscorer of all time.
Benzema’s strike in Thursday’s Levante thrashing put him level with Raul on 323 goals for Real Madrid, with only Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the pair on 450.
Espanyol v Valencia (1630)
Sunday (every 1730)
Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna, Atletico Madrid v Sevilla, Real Betis v Granada, Celta Vigo v Elche, Mallorca v Rayo Vallecano, Getafe v Barcelona, Cadiz v Real Madrid, Levante v Alaves, Villarreal v Real Sociedad