The 2013-14 La Liga season has reached Week 36, and it could prove to be the most decisive yet as Atletico Madrid look to move one step closer to their first title since 1996.
The league leaders face an awkward, but winnable, trip to Levante on Sunday afternoon. Victory would guarantee them at least a three-point lead with just two games remaining in the season.
Their remaining challengers are Real Madrid and Barcelona, both of whom can just do their best to win and hope for a slip-up from Diego Simeone’s men. Barca welcome Getafe to the Nou Camp on Saturday, while Real face a grueling week that sees them take on Valencia on Sunday night, then travel to play Real Valladolid on Wednesday.
The fight at the top of the table will have a big impact on the battle at the bottom, as both Getafe and Valladolid are in severe danger of the drop. With defeats looking likely for those clubs, it could well be Almeria who capitalise.
A win for los Rojiblancos over already-relegated Real Betis could well see them rise out of the bottom three.
|Date, time||Home||Away||Prediction||Live stream|
|May 2, 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Rayo Vallecano||Athletic Bilbao||0-1||beIN Sports Play|
|May 3, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Barcelona||Getafe||3-0||beIN Sports Play|
|May 3, 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Malaga||Elche||2-0||beIN Sports Play|
|May 3, 7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET||Osasuna||Celta de Vigo||1-1|
beIN Sports Play
|May 3, 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Real Valladolid||Espanyol||1-1|
beIN Sports Play
|May 4, 11 a.m. BST/6 a.m. ET||Almeria||Real Betis||2-0||beIN Sports Play|
|May 4, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET||Levante||Atletico Madrid||0-1||Sky Go App|
|May 4, 6 p.m. BST/1 p.m. ET||Sevilla||Villarreal||2-1||beIN Sports Play|
|May 4, 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Real Madrid||Valencia||3-1||Sky Go App|
|May 5, 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Real Sociedad||Granada||2-0|
Sky Go App
|May 7, 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Real Valladolid||Real Madrid||0-2||Sky Go App|
Key Players in Week 36
Atletico Madrid are not entirely used to still competing at the business end of La Liga and the Champions League, in fact, it is completely new to them. They turned out a superb display to win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, but they will certainly be feeling the effects of that huge effort.
This makes their captain, Gabi, who missed the match against Chelsea through suspension, their most important player this week against Levante. The 30-year-old is an inspirational figure in the Atleti side and is just the kind of man who can urge his flagging team-mates to victory.
The central midfielder is ranked No. 5 in WhoScored.com’s performance ratings for this La Liga season. This goes to show that, although the likes of Diego Costa and Koke grab most of the headlines, it is Gabi who makes the team tick.
Similarly, although they weren't suspended, neither Diego nor David Villa featured against the Blues. Both were left on the bench, and that will leave them fresh to make an impact in the attacking third against Levante, be that from the start or after being sent on from the bench.
Levante do have the best-ranked goalkeeper this season, per WhoScored.com, though. Keylor Navas has impressed throughout the season, and he will be key to keeping Atletico out on Sunday.
Real Madrid will need to win both games they play this week if they are to keep up with their local rivals. Although Cristiano Ronaldo takes most of the plaudits, it is Gareth Bale who could be key to achieving this. The Welshman has 14 goals and 12 assists in only 22 La Liga starts this year, as per ESPNFC. This seems to guarantee a goal when he is on the field. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have not conceded in their last four La Liga games, so if the Welshman can create or score a goal himself, victories look likely against both Valencia and Valladolid.
Barcelona are in an unusual situation for them at this time of the year. They face the very real prospect of a trophyless season unless both Madrid clubs slip up. Their form has been poor across three competitions of late, but they should have no trouble against Getafe at home.
Last time the two clubs met it was two goals from Lionel Messi that made the difference. It would be a surprise if the Argentinian maestro were not to strike again on Saturday. Messi is three goals behind Ronaldo in the race to be La Liga top scorer on 27, and he will still believe he can catch his great rival.
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