The 2013-14 La Liga season is running on its last legs, with half of Week 38 in the books following Atletico Madrid's title triumph over Barcelona on Saturday. The Atleti will represent Spain as champions of La Liga in next year's UEFA Champions League for the first time since 1996.
Seven total European tickets have been allocated to La Liga this season, as Real Madrid and Barcelona are both Champions League-bound and thus ineligible for the Copa del Rey's Europa League spot.
Read on for a fully updated La Liga table following Saturday's matches, as well as a complete breakdown of the seven European tickets for the 2014-15 season.
|La Liga Table Week 38 (as of Saturday night)|
Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona
The top three of the 2013-14 La Liga season, all three clubs will qualify directly for the UEFA Champions League's group stages.
All three teams have performed well in Europe in the last few years, with Barcelona winning the tournament several times and Real and Atletico set to play the 2014 final later this month.
As a result, the European coefficient should ensure a favourable place in one of the higher-seeded pots, as the Spanish top three looks to avoid a difficult draw.
A favourable draw is no guarantee, however, something Los Blancos can attest to. Just two years ago, Real found themselves in the so-called Group of Death, joined by Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.
Last year's draw was only marginally better, with difficult foes like Juventus and Galatasaray in their path.
League champions Atletico could field a weakened side next season, with the futures of Thibaut Courtois and Diego Costa very much up in the air. Via Eurosport, El Mundo Deportivo claims the Belgian stopper will return to Chelsea next season.
The Sun's Rob Beasley (subscription required) meanwhile has learned the Blues will announce the arrival of Costa following the Champions League final, for a reported fee of £32 million.
Still, the all-Spanish final this season and Sevilla's Europa League victory indicate La Liga still dominates European football, so all three teams should be in a good position heading into next season's Champions League. Ross Dyer sure seems to think so:
Sevilla only made the Europa League last season because Malaga and Rayo Vallecano were banned from European competition, as reported by the BBC, and yet they still were able to win the tournament.
The level of Spanish football seems to be trending upward once again, so Atletico, Real and Barcelona should have little to worry about ahead of next season.
The Basques will enter the fourth and final qualifying round for non-champions, which will be a two-legged fixture. As La Liga's fourth-placed time with a relatively low coefficient, Bilbao will most likely be unseeded for this round.
This means they won't be playing any of the teams that came through the tournament's previous stages, but instead will take on one of four teams already qualified for this round, all of whom have a better coefficient.
Those teams are Arsenal, FC Porto, Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli. A fifth option would be the second-placed team from the Russian Premier League, which would be expected to easily survive the third qualifying round. At this point in time, that team would be Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Regardless of the draw, all of these teams would present Athletic with a very difficult fixture. The Basques have been very solid in European competition in recent years, and they could surprise a fair number of top teams. Despite this, they won't be favoured in a head-to-head against any of those clubs.
As titleholders, Sevilla will qualify directly for the Europa League group stages, regardless of the team's final placement on the La Liga table. They will also automatically go into Pot 1, all but guaranteeing a favourable draw given the large number of weaker teams in the tournament's group stages.
Tying in on Sevilla, Real Sociedad's future in the Europa League is still up in the air.
The Basques could finish anywhere from fifth to seventh in La Liga, depending on the result of their match against Villarreal on Sunday and Sevilla's fixture with Elche later in the day.
If Sociedad beat Villarreal and don't defeat Elche, Sociedad will finish fifth and qualify directly for the Europa League's group stages. Should they finish sixth (by beating or drawing Villarreal and Sevilla winning their match), they would go into the Europa League's play-off round.
The play-off round is similar to the Champions League's final qualifying round—a two-legged tie, with the winner advancing to the group stages.
Should Sociedad lose to Villarreal, they will finish seventh and be forced to enter the third qualifying round, two rounds away from the Europa League group stages.
Unsurprisingly, the Basques would rather place fifth, but manager Jagoba Arrasate claimed the season would have been a success even if that didn't happen, via Inside Spanish Football:
After 53 games this season, this will be the 54th and will dictate whether the season has been good, or very good. It’s an important game, one we have to win and which could secure us 5th position. For our part, we’ll do everything we can, making our final effort. The fans understand that they can also help us, so that we can all finish the season the way we deserve to.
Villarreal can no longer finish in fifth, setting The Yellow Submarine up with a head-to-head against Sociedad on Sunday with La Liga's sixth place on the line. If Villarreal beat Sociedad, they'll enter the play-offs. If they don't, the third round will be waiting for them.
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