TWO games to go in La Liga, just one win needed for Real Madrid to seal their 34th La Liga title. Barcelona need a miracle and in all probability Quique Setien needs an unlikely Champions League triumph to save his job this summer. Elsewhere, Leganes' heroic but surely futile attempt at avoiding relegation continues at mid-table Bilbao, while Real Sociedad and Sevilla contest a potential thriller that could have major ramifications in the hunt for European football. It's going to be a special week in La Liga.
Bilbao have done well over the last two months to pull themselves into Europa League contention. They could still finish anywhere from fifth to 11th, but all Gaizka Garitano's side can do is keep picking up points and hope for the best. That's even more true of Leganes who occupy the final relegation place in La Liga though a semi-miraculous recent turnaround has alllowed them the slimmest of hopes heading into the final week of the season.
After claiming two points from their first six post-lockdown matches, Leganes then took seven points from the next three, beating Espanyol and Valencia, drawing with Eibar and keeping three clean sheets. Los Pepineros have never gone three straight away games without conceding in La Liga, and Raul Garcia's form will seriously challenge them here. Garcia has five goals in his last four games, including braces against both Valencia and Levante.
No side has taken the lead less often than Leganes (10) in the league this season, and with Bilbao scoring five of their last six goals at the San Mames before the break, the pattern for this game seems well set. Back Bilbao, and expect Garcia to do the damage.
Jose Bordalas' Getafe career has been a story of constant success. Year 1: promotion from the Segunda Division. Year 2: a mightily impressive eight-place finish. Year 3: a club record fifth-place finish which saw Champions League football denied only on the final day. And Year 4, this year: two more wins should seal a second straight top six finish, and fifth is still on. For this week however, there's only one problem: Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone's side have a frankly ludicrous recent record against Getafe. In the last 14 La Liga meetings between the two sides, Atleti have won 13, drawn one, and kept 14 clean sheets. 14 clean sheets in 14 matches against the same opponent! Madrid have not lost after scoring first this season – winning 15 and drawing four – so if they forge ahead, you can reasonably expect that to be game over, especially with Getafe failing to score in any of their last three games. Back Atletico to extend their unbeaten run to 15 games in La Liga.
Sociedad's Europa League bid received the best boost possible on Monday when they won 2-1 at fifth-place Villarreal to draw within three points of their league rivals, level on points with Getafe. But it's not La Real's away form that is troubling Imanol Alguacil. Sociedad have lost three of their last four home games – as many defeats as they've suffered in the previous 16 La Liga matches at the Onoeta.
Sevilla on the other hand are absolutely crusing. Jolen Lopetegui's first season in charge has seen them seal Champions League qualification easily – the only remaining issue is can they pip Atletico Madrid to third place, level on 66 points as they both are. Remarkably, Sevilla have not lost since in the league since February. 13 matches and counting including victories in each of their last four matches. All the pressure is on Sociedad here – lose and their European dream is over. That plays into Sevilla's hands – back the away win.
Barca tend to have a lot of fun at the Nou Camp when it's time to play Osasuna, winning the last six matches in succession averaging 5.2 goals per game and keeping four clean sheets. But such is Barca's predicament at the top of the table that even another hammering could be rendered meaningless as Real Madrid, four points ahead with two games remaining, can see of Villarreal to claim the title.
Osasuna could drop to 12th by the end of the campaign, or, allowing for an unfathomable set of results, finish as high as sixth. But in all likelihood, they will finish right where they are now: 11th, an impressive final standing for a promoted side. Los Rojillos are in good form having won two of their last three away matches – as many as in their previous 14 matches on the road – but expect that mini-revival to end on Thursday. Barca edged past Espanyol and Real Valladolid with two 1-0 wins last week – anticipate this one to be a bit more comfortable.
Benzema’s goal was the 500th goal scored by Real Madrid with Zidane as a manager. pic.twitter.com/4qmLRnZmXd
— Real Madrid Stats (@RMadrid_Stats) July 10, 2020
In Madrid's final pre-lockdown match, ex-Barcelona winger Cristian Tello struck late to give Real Betis a 2-1 win, inviting his old club to steal the initiative in the title race. Since lockdown, game over. Madrid haven't dropped a single point in nine matches, and they've kept more clean sheets (5) than they have conceded goals (4). Sure, they've been helped by the odd dodgy refereeing decision, but find me a league winner who isn't.
Villarreal have also been superb since La Liga restarted, dropping just two points in their first six matches. Javier Calleja's side did fallto defeat in two of their last three matches (1-4 vs Barcelona, 1-2 vs Real Sociedad) but prior efforts were sufficient to lift them into fifth spot. One more win should do it – next week at home to Eibar probably a better candidate than gatecrashing Madrid's title celebrations at the Bernabeu.
This match sees three of the top four post-lockdown goal scorers in action. Only Bilbao's Raul Garcia (6) has scored more than Real's Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema and Villarreal's Gerard Moreno (all 5). For this game, I'm backing Benzema. This has been his moment to step into the spotlight, his season of getting Real Madrid, and ultimately be remembered as his title such is the impact he made. It would be perfectly fitting for Real's new main man to score in their title-clinching game.