As the home stretch of the 2013-14 La Liga season approaches and Week 35 begins, the top of the table is still very much up in the air.
Atletico Madrid have made a surge to the top of the table and sit four points up on Barcelona, but one loss would mean Real Madrid—six points back but with a game in hand—would be in position to tie things up. One surprising result here or there could change the trajectory of the title race completely.
Few clubs are playing for much more than table positioning other than those three competing for the title and a few others trying not to get relegated. But things should still be thrilling down the stretch, with a number of clubs playing with everything on the line.
Let's break everything down from Matchday 35.
Matchday 35 Results
|Date||Home Club||Road Club||Final Score|
|4/26||Real Betis||Real Sociedad||0-1|
|4/27||Athletic Bilbao||Sevilla FC||3-1|
|4/28||Celta Vigo||Real Valladolid||4-1|
Matchday 35 Goalscorers
|2||Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid|
|1||Saul Niguez||Rayo Vallecano|
|1||Joaquin Larrivey||Rayo Vallecano|
|1||Seba Fernandez||Rayo Vallecano|
|1||Sergio Ramos||Real Madrid|
|1||Daniel Carvajal||Real Madrid|
|1||Carlos Vela||Real Sociedad|
|1||Francisco Velez Jimenez||Almeria|
|1||Raul Garcia||Atletico Madrid|
|1||Markel Susaeta||Athletic Bilbao|
|1||Iker Muniain||Athletic Bilbao|
Recap of Top Performances
Matchday 35 was kicked off Friday with Elche and Levante squaring off in the lone match, and it resulted in a tight-knit affair—as one would expect with Elche trying to escape relegation and Levante aiming to finish the season on the league's top half.
Elche proved to be hungry for the three points and took a second-half lead off Richmond Boakye's 63rd-minute goal. But they couldn't hold Levante off down the stretch.
Levante's Angel netted the equalizer in the 74th minute, all but assuring Elche wouldn't walk out of their home stadium victors this time around.
But the one point was enough for Elche—despite controlling possession at 66 percent and outshooting Levante 22-10—to feel good about themselves. It pushed them four points clear of a relegation spot with just three matches left to play for them.
Elche manager Fran Escriba commented on how vital that point was, per the club's official site:
Elche CF coach, Fran Escribá, praised the draw against Levante UD as "an important point, because we wanted to win from the start and do not sum occasions and they found a loose ball and took advantage of it. In the dressing room we are frustrated because we made one of the best matches."
However, Elche may end up regretting this result even more if things turn sour late in the season. They finish with a tough slate of Malaga, Barcelona and Sevilla in consecutive weeks to close things out.
Elche won't be able to control possession and do many of the things they did Friday against those three foes, so it's time to rewrite their strategies and figure out a way to muster up a few more points and avoid relegation.
Real Madrid climbed back to within three points of crosstown rivals Atletico on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo's brace helped Los Blancos to a 4-0 victory in the Santiago Bernabeu. Both goals were equal amounts of insane, as he ran down the left flank before cutting inside and curling his shot inside the far post.
With the loss, Osasuna remain mired in the relegation fight. They're three points clear of Real Valladolid, who still have two matches in hand.
One club who did strengthen its position in the relegation battle is Getafe. They earned a 1-0 victory over Malaga. Adrian Colunga scored what proved to be the winning goal in the seventh minute, and from then on, Getafe deployed a rear guard action. According to WhoScored.com, they only maintained 31 percent of possession but held Malaga to two shots on target.
Their win was made all the more impressive when you consider they played with 10 men for 53 minutes of the match. Ciprian Marica was sent off in the 37th minute. Malaga also had a player sent off in the 76th minute.
Getafe's win was felt most a little lower down the table as last-place Real Betis now have no mathematical chance of staying in La Liga, per BBC Sport's Andy West:
First relegation in La Liga has been confirmed today: Real Betis go down without even playing due to Getafe's 1-0 victory over Malaga.— Andy West (@andywest01) April 26, 2014
Betis have looked destined for the drop for weeks, so Saturday's result merely hastened the inevitable.
On Sunday, Atletico Madrid continued their march to a stunning La Liga title. Though Atletico look far from top form headed into their Champions League semifinal with Chelsea, they appear likely to scratch out enough offense to take the Spanish league title.
With wins against Levante and Malaga, Atletico's season-ending tilt against Barcelona becomes a moot point. Though the future is not secure, even with the financial influx from a deep Champions League run, Atletico supporters have one of the club's most memorable seasons in history to celebrate.
Meanwhile, Barcelona kept their flickering championship hopes alive. It's been a rough run for Barca since the transfer bans were announced, as the Spanish powers have lost the Copa Del Rey to Real Madrid and been bounced from the Champions League.
However, with an 83rd minute goal from Lionel Messi, Barcelona completed a comeback from a 2-0 hole and captured an indispensable three points. The Catalonian side still need to run the table and hope for Atletico to drop points along the way. At least for another week, though, the La Liga title race still holds some drama.