Predicting the Outcome of the 6 Most Crucial Matches Left in La Liga Season
It's been a fantastic La Liga season to date with plenty of surprises and exciting matches. Few could predict back in August that Atletico Madrid would be leading the race with six games to play.
Likewise, Athletic Bilbao sitting six points clear in a Champions League position after finishing 12th last year. Then, there is Real Betis currently propping up the table, when they were in the Europa League places last time out.
It's what makes the Spanish league so entertaining and is further proof that there is more to the division than just the Clasico duopoly.
Now the games can make a real difference as we enter the critical period of the campaign. These are the six most crucial matches left in the La Liga season and how I believe they will pan out.
6. Real Betis v Sevilla
It's the fourth Andalusian derby of the season this Sunday, as Sevilla make the short journey to the Benito Villamarin.
Real Betis are a massive nine points from safety and Sevilla are six points off the fourth-place spot. A win for either side would be a huge boost for their individual objectives.
The recent meeting in the Europa League saw both teams win the away leg. Expect Sevilla to damage their rivals further with a win, in what could be the last derby between the sides for a while.
5. Valencia v Atletico Madrid
Los Che are the last team to win La Liga outside Real Madrid and Barcelona, it's a feat they are proud of and hoping to maintain.
They have fallen a long way since those days and are an example to Atletico of what can happen when your brilliant manager departs and you don't sort your finances out.
The Mestalla is still a difficult place to get a result, but Valencia is a shadow of their former selves. It will be tight, but Los Colchoneros should get the three points to keep their title challenge on track.
4. Villarreal v Barcelona
The Yellow Submarine is in little danger of dropping below their position of seventh in the table, but they will be hoping for a European placing.
They have held the rest of the top four at El Madrigal and lost there only three times this season. It will be a huge test of Barcelona and Gerardo Martino's title credentials.
With the Copa del Rey sewn up and Barca out of Europe, the focus will be on this match 100 percent. Barcelona should win by the narrowest of margins.
3. Athletic Bilbao v Real Sociedad
The Basque derby is always an entertaining encounter and this promises to be no different with the two sides chasing that Champions League dream.
Real Sociedad knows what it's like to experience the competition and although they were easily knocked out, they would quite like to taste the sensation again.
Ernesto Valverde has made Athletic more pragmatic and underpinned the work done by Marcelo Bielsa in the last few years. Athletic should seal fourth with a convincing win over their neighbours.
2. Granada v Almeria
This is what the cliche pedlars would describe as an old-fashioned six pointer. There are currently four points separating the sides, but that could be very different by the penultimate weekend.
This grabs the attention as there are so few battles remaining between teams fighting for relegation. Real Betis will play a number of teams around them, though they may already be in the Segunda at this stage.
With head-to-head's the difference breaker if clubs are on the same points, it adds extra significance. A home win will see Granada safe if they aren't already.
Barcelona v Atletico Madrid
This game could be irrelevant if either team has a four-point advantage by this moment, but it's unlikely.
Barcelona will want to exact revenge on the team that knocked them out of the Champions League, whilst Atletico will be full of confidence and safe in the knowledge that they can beat them.
It promises to be the perfect way to end the La Liga season, with numerous twists and turns in the 90 minutes. A fascinating score draw to finish, but will that be good for Barcelona, Atletico or even Real Madrid?