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La Liga, Jornada 35: The Last Chance Saloon is Opening Its Doors

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Rayo, Huesca, maybe even Girona....if not now, when?

Old Tucson Studios Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

Jornada 35 is on the weekend (except for a meaningless match between Espanyol and Betis on Monday). We had big matches over two jornadas that involved teams in the bottom third of the table playing each other. Jornada 35 is—largely— different.

The relegation ‘hopefuls’ (if that is the right word) are mostly on the road, and except for Celta (Leganés) and Huesca (Villarreal) they are playing teams well above them in the table:

SAT Atletico Madrid—Real Valladolid; BarcelonaLevante (and Leganés—Celta)

SUN Girona—Sevilla; Rayo VallecanoReal Madrid (and Villarreal—Huesca)

Saturday’s matches: Atleti-Valladolid seems like a mismatch, and it probably is, though Atleti seems to have second place all locked up so really don’t have that much to play for at this point. Valladolid have a huge injury list and Kiko Olivas is suspended as well.

Barcelona—Levante might be slightly competitive depending on what rotations Vlaverde decides to do with the CL match against Liverpool coming up, but I suspect Barca will put out a strong enough side with that Messi guy and all. Levante are coming off a win over the supine Betis so at least have some momentum, but I can’t see them getting anything here.

Leganés—Celta: Celta have not done well on the road, even after Iago Aspas’s return. They are probably safe given they are on 36 points and have a home game left against Rayo, but they would sure like to wrap things up before then. Leganés are wobbling to the finish but on 41 points and with nine teams below them will be OK.

Sunday’s matches: Girona—Sevilla is almost a last throw of the dice for Girona. They haven’t won a home match since late October against Rayo, and they haven’t won any of their last six games. And they don’t own a tiebreak against anyone ahead of them, so draws are not enough—they need wins. Sevilla are not very good away, but they will be gunning for a CL spot so are likely to be a tough opponent even so.

Rayo Vallecano—Real Madrid sure looks like a mismatch. The only saving grace (maybe) for Rayo is that their last three matches are Levante away, Valladolid home, and Celta away. The problem is they are already 7-9 points adrift from these teams, so unless Rayo can spring the upset here, it looks like they are just too far away to make a run even if they do win these other three. Not looking good for the Lightning.

For Huesca, the match at Villarreal is important as much for themselves as it is for stopping Villarreal, now that there are four teams between them. Huesca have a narrow path to salvation, but it exists: their remaining matches are at home vs. Valencia, who are fighting for a CL spot but aren’t a great road team; away to Betis, who have little to play for and seem to have packed it in; and at home to Leganés, who are playing out the string too. Could they win all of these? In theory, yes, but, just like Rayo, if they don’t win this week, it might not matter, as three wins from four only gets them to 38 points. They do own the tiebreaks against Girona and Rayo, and it would come down to goal difference with Levante. But still, it’s a longshot unless they can run the table.

Villarreal, meanwhile, want to get a victory here to ensure Primera football next season. There’s another winnable home match vs. Eibar, sure, but after all the ups and downs of this season, picking up a win here, and a fourth overall in the league, would be perfect and essentially remove all doubt.

Saturday’s results may say a lot about what is at stake on Sunday!