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Jornada 34 Preview: Crunch time for Huesca and Rayo

Villarreal travel to the Anoeta, where they have done well in recent years.

Rayo Vallecano v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Jornada 33 is in the books and it was a good one for Villarreal and Celta, who were the only two teams in the bottom half of the table to record a win.

Jornada 34 begins on Tuesday with two big games in the relegation race: Huesca v Eibar is a must-win for the home side. Lose it, and they have no momentum going into their next three matches against Villarreal, Valencia, and Betis. Even a draw doesn’t help at this point—they need wins.

Eibar have drawn away matches of late, except for Real Madrid. On 40 points, their safety should almost be assured except that their remaining schedule is Betis and Barca at home, Villarreal and Valencia away, so a win here would be nice to remove all doubt.

The bigger match is Real Valladolid v Girona. The Pucela have one win in their last 12 league matches, a long injury list, and their inability to score goals—they’ve only managed 28 in 33 games—is finally catching up with them. Girona have been a team of streaks: 21 points from their first 14 matches, including a six-match unbeaten streak in la Liga; then a string of nine without a win; then only one loss in six games, including a victory over Real Madrid in the capital, and a victory in the Copa de Catalunya; and most recently, five losses in a row.

Both teams have to be viewing this as a must-win match: Valladolid don’t have a lot of possiblities for points the rest of the way, so a loss here might mean they finish on 35-36 points at most—but if they win, then they pass Girona, and the Catalan side don’t have many opportunities to move up either. A draw, of course, means they both drop key points.

Wednesday: Espanyol v Celta should be fun, but as long as Celta escape with at least a point and Iago Aspas remains in good health, their survival is almost assured. Usually by this point the parakeets pretty much pack it in and drift to a finish in 12-15th, but under coach Rubi Ferrer, they’ve been looking quite good of late, and Chinese striker Wu Lei is getting some playing time. Celta have been looking good under Fran Escribà, though.

Levante v Real Betis is probably a bigger matchup; both teams are missing key players (Rochina for Levante, Lo Celso for Betis). Levante haven’t won at home since January and they have been alternating away losses and home draws rather too much of late. Betis aren’t doing well either in the last two months, except for defeating Villarreal, Vigo, and Valladolid. Must be something about the letter V.

Thursday: Sevilla host Rayo Vallecano in what looks like a dreadful matchup for the Vallekas side. Raul de Tomás, who has 14 of their goals, will be out; their defense, which has been terrible, faces the third-best scoring team in La Liga; and Sevilla are in the midst of a race for the final Champions League place so will be motivated before a home crowd. Rayo look dead in the water if they lose this, and they surely will.

Real Sociedad v Villarreal will be previewed on Wednesday.