As the Spanish football season limps over the finish line after what has been a thoroughly uninspiring competition, it would seem that the final day could provide the kind of excitement that has been missing for a while in La Liga. The sports paper's are calling it heart attack Sunday as four clubs prepare to fight it out to avoid relegation on the final day of the season.
Saturday 17 May 2008 (Spanish Time)
22:00 Murcia - Barcelona
Sunday 18 May 2008
18:00 Getafe - Betis
18:00 Recreativo - Valladolid
18:00 Valencia - At. Madrid
18:00 Mallorca - Zaragoza
18:00 Racing - Osasuna
20:00 R. Madrid - Levante
21:00 Espanyol - Almería
21:00 Deportivo - Villarreal
21:00 Sevilla - Athletic
The fate's of Real Zaragoza, Osasuna, Recreativo Huelva and Real Valladolid all lie in their own hands as each of them knows that a win should see them safe and assure them a place in Spanish football's top flight next season. Both Real Zaragoza face difficult away trips, but each of them knows that with Valladolid travelling to fellow relegation candidates Recreativo Huelva, three points would guarantee them safety.
Zaragoza face a very tough trip to the Balearics to face a Real Mallorca side who, in seventh place, are in the hunt for an Intertoto place and are in fine form after winning five of their last six La Liga fixtures. An excellent 3-2 win at the Camp Nou last weekend helped the La Liga Pichichi Dani Guiza edge closer to being confirmed as the Spanish leagues top goal scorer this season. A call up to the Spanish national side awaits.
Zaragoza are currently in 18th place and their away form has been woeful this season, having lost 12 times away from the security of La Romareda, and that is why, coupled with the fact that they have worked their way through four coaches since last August, they find themselves in this predicament. However, they must put all that behind them if they are to avoid a financially catastrophic demotion from the top flight. Zaragoza midfielder Alberto Zapater, speaking yesterday, said: "We must go out and we must be ready to die. All the players have the feeling that we are preparing for a final, it is a game in which play for everything and the only thing that we can look at is the win."
Failure to win, could see the break up of a Zaragoza side that includes a number of very talented individuals, yet for some reason or another, just isn't working. Roberto Ayala's tears after scoring the winner a couple of weeks ago deny the accusation that the side lacks commitment.
Osasuna, who ended a run of four successive defeats with a 2-1 win over Real Murcia last weekend , face an even tougher away trip as they head to Marcelino's sixth-placed Racing Santander. The highly sought after Racing coach may be in charge for the last time at the club he has guided to one of their best ever finishes and he will be hoping to leave them with the parting gift of UEFA cup football for next season.
Osasuna's Hugo Viana said "We all know that only a victory is sure to stop us going down, although we might also depend on Zaragoza, who are below us. We could end up not winning but still not going down, but that is not our aim."
There's also drama guaranteed at the Bernabeu where Real Madrid, in spite of having already won La Liga, will have to wait and see if their opponents, Levante, even bother to turn up. Already relegated Levante have called a strike in protest at not having been paid in full for several months by their debt saddled employers.
Whatever happens, Real Madrid are determined that they will be throwing a party to remember to celebrate winning their 31st Primera Liga title. Raul, who will not be going to the Euro's with theSnaosh national squad in the summer has promised to do that bullfighting thing he does with a cape, Calderon has promised fireworks and horses - yes horses - and Bernd Schuster has promised to do a ten minute stand up routine. (We might have made that last one up - but you get the picture).
All of the other remaining fixtures feature managers who will be taking charge of their respective clubs for the last time.
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are competing for third place with both sides on 64 points. Barcelona travel to Murcia in Saturday's only match, for what will be Frank Rijkaard's last game in charge of the Blaugrana. A number of Barcelona players - including Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry, Gianluca Zambrotta and Deco, amongst others may also be seeing the curtain come down on their spells with the Catalan club.
Atletico, guaranteed Champions League football for next season travel to Valencia on Sunday for what has been confirmed as Santi Canizares final game at the Mestalla club.
Second-placed Villarreal will be hoping to round of their best ever Primera Liga campaign with a sixth successive win when they go to Deportivo La Coruna, while Sevilla - who are guaranteed fifth place - host Athletic Bilbao.
This weekend's other matches see Espanyol take on Almeria in a game that may well be the last for Valverde at the Barcelona based club, while Unai Emery looks certain to move on to a 'bigger' club in the summer after doing a fantastic job at Almeria. Getafe at home to Real Betis and Michel Laudrup has confirmed this afternoon that he will be leaving Los Azulones.