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Fourth Place in La Liga: Down the Stretch They Come!

Three teams, one Champions League qualification place. Or two? Maybe, if one wins the Europa League – all three sides have one foot in the quarterfinals after favorable first-leg results in the round of 16.

Villarreal 53, Sevilla 48, Athletic Bilbao 47. Villarreal threw away the tiebreak against Sevilla in stoppage time; the Yellow Submarine holds it over Athletic. And remember that Athletic hosts Sevilla in the final round, so at least one will drop points.
Villarreal’s remaining schedule: Barcelona – 1st (home), Eibar – 8th (away), Getafe – 17th (home), Rayo Vallecano – 16th (away), Real Madrid – 3rd (away), Real Sociedad – 10th (home), Valencia – 12th (away), Deportivo La Coruña – 13th (home), and Sporting Gijón – 19th (away). Barca and Madrid, four mid-table sides (Valencia will be up for the derby, but maybe not the others if they reach safety), and three strugglers. Villarreal comes four rounds after Sevilla in the schedule, so they will share five common opponents and venues.

Sevilla’s remaining schedule: Real Madrid – 3rd (away), Sociedad – 10th (home), Valencia – 12th (away), Depor – 13th (home), Sporting – 19th (away), Real Betis – 11th (home), Espanyol – 14th (away), Granada – 18th (home), and Athletic – 6th (away). Looks pretty even on the other four rivals if Athletic has something to play for in the final round. And don’t forget the Copa del Rey final a week after La Liga ends.

Athletic’s remaining schedule: Espanyol – 14th (away), Granada – 18th (home), Rayo Vallecano – 16th (home), Málaga – 9th (away), Atlético Madrid – 2nd (home), Levante – 20th (away), Celta Vigo – 7th (home), Las Palmas – 15th (away), and Sevilla – 5th (home). Five home games, including all three against upper-table rivals. Think los leones have the most favorable schedule, but two teams to pass and needing a three-match edge over Villarreal is daunting with nine left, particularly given squad constraints.

So who bags fourth in La Liga? Vote in the poll and share your comments below.