Week 35 of the 2013-14 La Liga season is upon us, and with just four more weeks of action ahead of us and several of the top teams facing difficult fixtures this week, the championship could very well be decided after Monday's final match.
League leaders Atletico Madrid face a trip to Europa League hopefuls Valencia while Barcelona will take on Villarreal, with The Yellow Submarine still vying for the league's final European tickets.
Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla will square off on Sunday, with the winners of that match positioning themselves for a run on La Liga's final UEFA Champions League spot.
|Date, time||Home||Away||Prediction||Live stream|
|April 25, 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Elche||Levante||0-1||beIN Sports Play|
|April 26 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Granada||Rayo Vallecano||2-2||beIN Sports Play|
|April 26 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Getafe||Malaga||1-2||beIN Sports Play|
|April 26 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET||Real Madrid||Osasuna||4-1||Sky Go App|
|April 26 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Real Betis||Real Sociedad||0-2||Sky Go App|
|April 27 11 a.m. BST/6 a.m. ET||Espanyol||Almeria||1-0||beIN Sports Play|
|April 27 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET||Valencia||Atletico Madrid||0-1||Sky Go App|
|April 27 6 p.m. BST/1 p.m. ET||Athletic Bilbao||Sevilla||0-0||Sky Go App|
|April 27 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Villarreal||Barcelona||1-1||beIN Sports Play|
|April 28 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Celta Vigo||Valladolid||2-2||Sky Go App|
where's the match
Much has been written about Barcelona's mini-crisis, as the Catalan giants have now lost three of their last four matches and are very much in danger of ending the season without any silverware.
The Blaugrana cannot afford to drop any points at this stage of the season, chasing Atletico by four points with just four matches remaining. A trip to Villarreal was the last thing Barcelona needed, but that's exactly what's in store this week.
The Yellow Submarine are limping toward the finish line themselves, having only won a single match in their last four outings, but they remain one of the more talented outfits in La Liga and could pose a real threat to Barcelona's already slim title hopes.
El Madrigal is never an easy place to play, and as reported by Complete Sports Nigeria (via News247Nigeria), the hosts could be boosted by the return of one of the club's star players:
IK Uche Back In Training Super Eagles forward Ikechukwu Uche is back in training after over three weeks on th... http://t.co/Gowlfx1bvD— Chez Stone (@News247Nigeria) April 24, 2014
Ikechukwu Uche's dynamic play at the forward position could make life hard on a Barcelona defence that could be without as many as four of their top central defenders, per WhoScored.com.
Gerard Pique will almost certainly not feature, and Marc Bartra, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano are all doubtful for this match. With midfield enforcer Sergio Busquets also not fully fit, the Blaugrana will be going into this match severely understaffed in the defensive compartment.
Mundo Deportivo (via Barcastuff) believe Busquets will take over the starting duties from Alex Song, despite not being 100 percent:
Busquets (after suspension) and Cesc are expected to return to starting line-up on Sunday. Iniesta would then again play on left wing. [md]— barcastuff (@barcastuff) April 25, 2014
The Spanish international's defensive contributions will be key in protecting an already thin defensive unit against the hosts' solid attack, led by Uche. Without a solid performance from Busquets, the pressure on Jose Manuel Pinto's goal could be too great for the backup stopper to handle.
Atletico Madrid and Valencia will both feature in European competitions later in the week, so both teams could field alternative lineups. The hosts' chances of catching up to Real Sociedad and the final Europa League ticket appear slim at best, so Valencia are expected to fully focus on their semi-final against Sevilla on Thursday.
But Paco Alcacer will still feature for the hosts, and the striker has enjoyed a phenomenal breakout campaign. His scoring touch has often been the difference between winning and losing for Valencia and should once again be the team's main calling card against Atletico.
The visitors could rest several starters of their own, including centre-back Miranda. This would open the door for Belgium international Toby Alderweireld to get the start against the dangerous Alcacer, the perfect opportunity for him to boost his value ahead of a possible move away.
Alderweireld is yet to formally comment on the potential of a summer move, but the Belgian has hardly featured since making the move from Ajax and could see his playing time with the national team suffer as a result.
A strong performance against Alcacer, one of Europe's up-and-comers at the position, could both convince coach Marc Wilmots that Alderweireld is the answer at the right-back position and put the Belgian on other teams' radars.
Should Alderweireld struggle against the talented youngster, however, it could severely damage his team's title hopes this late to the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. Atletico need a win to hold off Real Madrid and Barcelona, and they simply cannot afford to make any mistakes against a talented Valencia side.