With the 2013-2014 La Liga race coming down to “mano a mano” (hand to hand for all the non-Spanish speakers), the Barcelona – Atletico clash this weekend is sure to set the curtain on a scintillating season. In a league where slip ups have granted Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid opportunities to take top spot, there will be no room for mistakes at the Camp Nou this Saturday. There are just two scenarios that will decide the league: a win or draw for Atletico which ends the Real Madrid and Barcelona domination of the La Liga, or a win for Barcelona that will crown the Catalans champions once again.
The key to Atletico’s success thus far has been their stellar home form. They have not lost a home league game in the Vicente Calderon, and Los Rojiblancos have a +39 goal differential for their home league games. For both Real Madrid and Barcelona, each team has two and one home losses respectively.
To quantify the importance of an Atletico draw or win, think of it like this: since 1995-1996 (when Atletico last won the league), only one four other teams have won the league, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Deportivo la Coruña. The latter two just won the league a combined three times in that period – all other titles have been shuffled between Real Madrid and Barcelona. But enough about the top, let’s look at the bottom.
As always, the bottom of the table isn’t so clear. Betis is already on its way to the Segunda Division, but for fellow compatriots Osasuna and Valladolid, there is still hope. For Valladolid will visit Granada, who are just one point above the drop zone, and both teams will grind out a result – winner takes all style. Osasuna will host already relegated Real Betis, and assuming Osasuna wins, this will put them on level with Valladolid with 39 points. Here’s where it gets tricky – Osasuna holds the deciding factors when on level points. In La Liga, this is head to head matchups, not goal difference as many would assume. So, if both Valladolid and Osasuna win, Valladolid will still hit the drop zone.
Regardless of what happens during the last round of the league, Atletico, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao will represent Spain in the 2014-2015 edition of the European Champions League. Likewise, Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Villareal will represent Spain in the Europa League.
In terms of individual awards, Ronaldo seems to be on track for the Pichichi Trophy, which is awarded to the top scorer in the league. Currently, the Portuguese has 31 goals and will seek to extend this tally this weekend at home against Espanyol. Messi and Costa follow with 28 and 27 respectively.
Regardless of what happens this weekend, the 2013-2014 edition of La Liga has been a joy to behold, and be sure to stay tuned to this weekend for all of the end of season antics.