by IANS |
Madrid, April 29 (IANS) Real Madrid could be confirmed as La Liga champions for the 2021-22 season this weekend with four games still to play.
The 34th round of matches in Spain has several other key matches in the battle for European places and also to avoid relegation, but most attention will be on the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium where a point for Real Madrid against Espanyol will seal them this season's title.
Madrid go into the game with half an eye on the return leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal against Manchester City next week, after surviving a battering from the Premier League leaders to emerge with just a 4-3 defeat in the first leg on Tuesday.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti can be expected to rest key players in advance of Wednesday's return leg, but he should still have more than enough to assure the title against a rival that has lost its last two games and has little to play for, Xinhua reports. The round of matches kicks off on Friday night with a big game for both ends of the table, as third-placed Sevilla entertain fourth from bottom Cadiz, who are just a point above the relegation zone.
Sevilla are level on points with FC Barcelona and have two more than fourth-placed Atletico Madrid in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Europe and relegation are both in play in Saturday's opening game which sees seventh-placed Villarreal travel to bottom side Alaves, who currently sit six points behind Cadiz.
Alaves need striker Joselu to keep scoring in order to keep their slim hopes of survival intact, while Villarreal coach Unai Emery will also rest key players as he looks to his side's Champions League semifinal return leg on Tuesday, where they need to overturn a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.
Villarreal can't afford to take their eye off the ball entirely in La Liga, however, as they have a four-point cushion over eighth-placed Athletic Bilbao, who take on Atletico Madrid on Saturday night.
Atletico travel without central defender Stefan Savic, which Athletic's preparations are not helped by speculation over the club's forthcoming presidential elections.
Saturday also sees a derby between last weekend's defeated Copa del Rey finalists Valencia and Levante, who go into the game six points from safety.
Consecutive wins have given Elche an eight-point cushion over the bottom three and Francisco Rodriguez's side are probably one win away from securing their La Liga status for another year, and they will hope to get those points against mid-table Osasuna on Sunday.
The pressure is on at Granada after they dropped into the bottom three, but coach Aitor Karanka can look to build on the hard-fought point his side took from Atletico Madrid 10 days ago when they entertain Celta Vigo.
Rayo Vallecano's Vallecas stadium should be a party after consecutive wins, including a 1-0 triumph away to FC Barcelona, assured their survival. Sixth-placed Real Sociedad are the visitors on Sunday with the Basque side trying to ensure their top-six hopes and keep pressure on the top four.
FC Barcelona need to end a run of three home defeats in all competitions when they entertain Mallorca on Sunday night.
Depending on results elsewhere, Mallorca could have dropped into the bottom three again by the time things get under way in the Camp Nou, but with Barca misfiring in recent games against Rayo, Cadiz and Eintracht Frankfurt, the pressure is on the hosts to react, and there is a chance that Ansu Fati could play some part in the game.
The last game is on Monday with Getafe at home to Copa del Rey winners Real Betis.