All of this week’s matches are at the same time, which will leave us flipping the channel (if you have the DirecTV package I do), or watching with Laptop in tow. Real Madrid mathematically clinched they first title in four years (32nd overall), with a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. They have deserved it by blowing past the competition and winning where Barcelona could not. However, now they have a new goal in mind, break the single season team scoring record. There are intense battles for survival with Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal, Sporting Gijon, and Real Zaragoza all needing wins. Better change the remote batteries now…you won’t want to miss any of this week’s action.
Players to watch for Week 36 – 29 shots, 11 shots on goal, 4 goals, 1 assist, 1 yellow card
#8 Athletic Bilbao vs. #12 Getafe
This match has a bit if an ‘Eh’ feeling to it. Both squads have been in less-than-ideal form over the past several weeks, and with both having secured survival, they have very little motivation to perform. Considering Athletic are in the Europa League final on Tuesday, they will surely rest all of their major players, giving Getafe the advantage in a throw-away game.
Prediction – Getafe 2-1
Player to watch – Miku – Mika has a tremendous work ethic, having played in 35 out of 36 La Liga matches this season. He has worked for every one of his 12 goals.
#15 Granada vs. #1 Real Madrid
You make look at this and see this as a bit of a throw away game for Real Madrid, not so. Los Blancos are on pace to break 100 points, beating Barcelona’s 99 from two years ago. Jose Mourinho is the type of person who would completely run over a lesser team, just to prove he is better than everyone, so look to Real Madrid to keep the pedal on the gas.
Prediction – Real Madrid 2-0
Player to watch – Cristiano Ronaldo – Ronaldo is two goals behind Messi in the race for the Pichichi trophy (most goals scored in La Liga). Winning the league title isn’t enough; he will be shooting non-stop for the next two matches.
#7 Mallorca vs. #5 Levante
Mallorca have played exceptionally well under Joaquin Caparros, but their backroom politics could be the downfall of this up-and-coming club. Levante, on the other hand, need to win the next two matches to stay in the Europa League picture. Levante’s players are fatigued and with the loss of Kone for the season, they lose a dynamic part of their attack. Mallorca should be able to handle Levante, as the Valencia side scramble to save their season.
Prediction – Mallorca 1-0
Player to watch – Gonzalo Castro – Castro has been on fire lately, putting in two man of the match performances in a row with one goal and one assist.
#9 Osasuna vs. #14 Real Sociedad
These next two weeks will be crucial for Osasuna. They have had a whirlwind season, but if they win the next two matches, they could get a Europa League birth. Real Sociedad are safe from relegation and have very little to play for, leaving Osasuna a perfect opportunity to grab three points. Not to mention, Osasuna have the entire city of Pamplona rooting for them, in this Battle of the North.
Prediction – Osasuna 2-1
Player to watch – Raul Garcia – Garcia, like Osasuna, has had a bit of a turbulent season. Since March, he has scored five goals, 2 assists, three yellow cards, and one red card.
#18 Real Zaragoza vs. #20 Racing Santander
This will be a phenomenal game, and it has nothing to do with the action on the pitch. Real Zaragoza currently has 37 points in the table, and Captain Javier Paredes believes that if they reach 43 points, they will reach their goal of survival. However, Racing is playing with nothing to lose and could challenge Zaragoza defensively. However, Zaragoza’s skill and confidence from recent weeks will carry them through this match and will fight to the bitter end.
Prediction – Real Zaragoza 2-0
Player to watch – Apono – The former Malaga man has come on strong for Zaragoza late in the season. His squad will need him to step up if they hope to survive.
#10 Sevilla vs. #17 Rayo Vallecano
Sevilla have taken just one point from their last four games, but may be able to take advantage of a side that has even lower confidence than they do. Rayo, once the comeback underdogs, have now lost their six road games. Not to mention that the Madrid have allowed four or more goals in their past four matches, which means that even Sevilla should be able to get at least one goal against them.
Prediction – Sevilla 2-0
Player to watch – Jesus Navas – With Negredo being unavailable, it will be up to the captain to lead the attack and try to save manager Michel’s job.
#19 Sporting Gijon vs. #11 Real Betis
For Sporting Gijon have relegation is almost an inevitability, while Betis are hoping their win over cross-town rivals, Sevilla, can carry over to their next two matches. Betis have nothing to play for, as they are safe at mid-table and have exceeded expectations. Little to play for, and an unentertaining match.
Prediction – Draw 1-1
Player to watch – Ruben Castro – Castro has been the main reason Betis have surpassed expectations. I see him ending this campaign on a strong note.
#3 Valencia vs. #16 Villarreal
Valencia has a lot at stake in this match. They need a win to maintain their Champions League qualification, to justify their payroll, and give the fans something to hope for. Villarreal are playing for survival. The yellow submarine has not lived up to expectations and need a win to stay above the relegation zone. A move to the Segunda Division would be devastating to fans and players alike, however they have their hands full with Los Che.
Prediction – Valencia 2-1
Player to watch – Aritz Aduriz – Give Aduriz some love, he has flown under the radar for the past couple months, but had a breakout two-goal game last week in a 4-0 win over Osasuna.
#2 Barcelona vs. #13 Espanyol
The Barcelona Derbi will be the last of the ‘Guardiola Era.’ However, despite the significance for the man on the sidelines, the match itself will hardly be memorable. Barcelona will more than likely rest the majority of their starters, in order to boost the confidence of their young players. Barcelona has scored 11 goals in their past two matches, and has only lost once at the Camp Nou this season. At least Espanyol can take solace in the fact that they will back next season.
Prediction – Barcelona 3-1
Player to watch – Leo Messi – Last week Messi scored three goals, bringing his overall season total to 68, breaking Gerd Mueller’s European goal scoring record in the process. So what is left for the Argentine to accomplish, the worldwide season record of 70, perhaps…?
Game of the Week
#6 Atletico Madrid vs. #4 Malaga
This is the game that will have a lasting effect on both club’s futures. If Malaga loses they could still make the Champions League, but it is not a guarantee, as Atletico Madrid would be just two points behind them. Even more important is if they were to tie on points, Atleti would win on goal differential. Both clubs are in a must win situation and both will be desperate to score as many goals as possible, making this one the most intense and exciting of the week. However, Atletico could clinch European qualification with a win over Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, so their focus may shift to that match. Malaga will clinch at least fourth with a draw, which is what this will come down to.
Prediction – Draw 1-1
Player to watch – Santi Cazorla – The best purchase this club has ever made. You can see the effect he has on teams (Villarreal might not survive this season). He is a tremendous player and great competitor.