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La Liga at the International Break

Nine matches left—that’s it!

No, I don’t know why Soriano has Trigueros’s shirt on backwards! Manu seems amused.
Villarreal CF twitter

La Liga takes the week off for an international break. With only a quarter of the season left, here’s what’s settled—and what’s still left to play for.

Champion: Barcelona have only dropped 12 points from their first 29 matches, and they’re 11 points clear of Atletico Madrid. Could they still lose? Sure, but it’s unlikely. Their toughest road match is at Sevilla; they have Valencia, Villarreal and Real Madrid left to play, but all at the Camp Nou.

Champions League: The order could change, but it sure looks like Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Valencia in places 2-4. Los Che seem to have recovered from their bobble in late January-early February; realistically, unless they lose a lot of away matches and struggle at home, it’s going to be hard to blow a 12-point lead.

Europa League: As in many years, the most hotly contested battle in the league is for places 5-6 (or 7). Villarreal (47), Sevilla (45), Girona (43), and Betis (43) are scrapping for the spots, with Getafe, Eibar and Celta (all on 39) close enough to ride a hot streak to Europe.

The schedule, it must be said, favors Girona: the only team in the top 6 they have yet to face is Valencia, and that’s at Montilivi. The only direct rival they have yet to play is Betis—and that’s at Montilivi also! Plus they finish up at Las Palmas, which is almost certainly sure to have been relegated by then.

Betis play away at Atletico Madrid and host Sevilla on May 12. That should be a tasty derby indeed!

Sevilla, meanwhile, have the following schedule after the break: Barcelona (home), Bayern Munich (home), Celta (away), Bayern (away), Villarreal (home). They have to make up a home match with Real Madrid, too, since they’ll be playing in the Copa del Rey final. It might be easier for Sevilla to defeat Barca in a one-off match, qualifying for Europe as cup champions than to run the gauntlet of their remaining schedule and finish in the top six!

Relegation: Malaga haven’t won a match in 2018; with only 14 points (13 away from safety), they’re done barring a miracle. Las Palmas and Depor are looking like more certain candidates for the drop after drawing with each other last weekend, while Levante are six points clear with home matches against Malaga and Las Palmas remaining.

If anyone else is going to get dragged into the relegation scrap, it could be Alavès, but unless not-so-super Depor or the islanders get hot and win at least half of their remaining matches, they seem safe.

As Sid Lowe pointed out, things haven’t changed much over the course of the season. The biggest move came from Alaves, who were originally down with Malaga but have done much better since a coaching change. But he’s looking only at the top six and bottom three, and the reality is Betis and Girona have been moving up the middle third of the table.