Expect the unexpected. That’s been the theme throughout the LaLiga season.
Up until the final few matchdays of the season, four teams were still in the title race and we haven’t seen that for a very long time. There have been countless twists and turns in this run-in and I expect it go down to the last minute of the final matchday as Atlético and Real each battle to win the title.
Away from the title race, six other teams have it all to play for with European spots and LaLiga survival to be decided – don’t miss anything with the multigoal coverage on LaLigaTV.
Everyone is expecting an easy victory for league leaders Atlético Madrid away at Real Valladolid – who are one of three clubs fighting for survival – but I expect it to be another tense game.
Atlético fans have suffered over the years, and they may have to do that for a little while longer, as I am predicting the title to heading to Real only for a late Atlético goal to settle the season – but they’ll need to be patient.
Diego Simeone’s inspired team talk at the water break helped his side turn it around against Osasuna in just eight minutes. Simeone said it was going to be Luis Suárez’s moment and it was written in the stars that he scored the late winner. He delivered. In that comeback, Atléti showed the sign of true champions, and I see a late goal sealing the title for them tomorrow.
For Atlético’s fans it’s going to be a huge occasion. Atlético famously won LaLiga in 2013/14 but before that it was the 1995/96 season when they last tasted glory. If they win on Saturday, this will be their 11th LaLiga title in their history but only their third in 44 years, which shows how much they’ve suffered.
Make no mistake, Atlético have always been a big club in Spain with fans across the country and around the world, but since Simeone took charge, the club has gone to a different level. They’re always title challengers, season after season, and that’s Simeone’s most impressive achievement.
The competitiveness of LaLiga has been increasing year on year with the total points tally from the champions significantly reduced since Real Madrid and Barcelona reached 100 points in 2012 and 2013.
LaLiga is now as competitive as ever. Sevilla made it a four-way race up until earlier this month and next season I can see them closing the gap further - plus I expect clubs like Real Sociedad, Villarreal and potentially Valencia to be challenging for the title in years to come.
Real Valladolid vs Atlético Madrid, LIVE ON LaLigaTV’s multigoal broadcast and on Premier Sports 2, Saturday 5pm
On paper, Real Madrid’s game at home to Villarreal is far more difficult than Atlético’s trip to Valladolid, but Villarreal could turn out to be the easier opponent.
Villarreal have next week’s Europa League final on their mind which is their only chance to qualify for the Champions League next season – so while they’ll want to win and hope results go their way to guarantee Europa League football next season, they’ll naturally be distracted with a European final in four days’ time.
However, there are no easy games in LaLiga and Villarreal will make life difficult for Real Madrid. Unai Emery’s side thumped Sevilla 4-0 last weekend, and they’ll want a good result to keep confidence high going into a historic final for the club.
Last weekend, Real Madrid didn’t blow Athletic Club away in their 1-0 win but did enough for the three points and that’s been the story of their season. Their best performances have come in the biggest games including both Clásico wins over Barcelona.
Zinedine Zidane has opted for academy graduate left-back Miguel Rodriguez to start in recent matches and I expect him to stick with the youngster over Marcelo and Ferland Mendy on Saturday, and he’ll be one to watch in a game of this magnitude.
When Eden Hazard got back to full fitness, I thought he could be the hero for Real Madrid, but it looks likely to be the ever-dependent Karim Benzema, who’ll have extra motivation following his recall to the France national team for the upcoming Euros.
Real Madrid’s players will be confident, and they’ve got the experience of these huge games, so I expect Real Madrid to get the job done. All the tension will be in Valladolid than in Madrid, and it’s going to go right down to the wire.
Real Madrid vs Villarreal CF, LIVE ON LaLigaTV’s multigoal broadcast and on Premier Sports 1, Saturday 5pm
The relegation battle has been one of the fiercest in memory with Alavés and Getafe securing their LaLiga status for another season last weekend. Still fighting for survival are SD Huesca, Elche and Valladolid – all at home but with tough opponents to overcome.
As it stands, Huesca would survive level on points with Elche but with the better goal head-to-head record, but each club know a win tomorrow will give them the best chance of staying up.
Earlier in the season Huesca played like a big team without the players to get the results but since José ‘Pacheta’ Martin came in they’ve turned their season around and Rafa Mir’s goals have given them the chance to survive.
Pacheta was sacked by Elche after getting them promoted, and now he may haunt his former club by sending them back down.
I thought Elche were doomed last month but they still have a chance and arguably Athletic Club, who’ve had a long season, are an easier opponent than Valencia.
Valladolid will need to produce a miracle to stay up, but they’ll fight till the final whistle so it should be a fascinating watch. And after all that, Huesca will stay up… just.
Watch SD Huesca vs Valencia and Elche vs Athletic Club to see who survives in LaLiga LIVE on LaLigaTV’s multigoal broadcast, Saturday 5pm
The European battle has been a fascinating race all season, with Real Betis and Real Sociedad hoping to keep Villarreal out of the top six.
Manuel Pellegrini has done an excellent job at Betis, shoring up the defence and getting the best out of Borja Iglesias who’s full of confidence leading the line for Los Verdiblancos. They face a tough trip to LaLiga’s inform side Celta Vigo knowing a win will mean they finish above Villarreal on the head-to-head rule.
Real Sociedad would be challenging for the Champions League places had they kept David Silva fit for the entire season, and I expect them to do enough away to Osasuna.
The next two matches are pivotal for Unai Emery’s Villarreal; two wins would make it into a great season, but two defeats would be a disappointment. Beating Real Madrid and Manchester United in four days is a tough task for any side.
Watch the race for Europe unfold with Celta Vigo vs Real Betis and Osasuna vs Real Sociedad LIVE ON LaLigaTV’s multigoal broadcast, Saturday 5pm
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