While there was a duel between the two leaders FC Barcelona and Real Madrid on the last day of LaLiga Santander shortly before the international break, when club football returns, the teams are now in third, fourth, fifth and sixth place in the overall standings in two games that should be exciting.
Atlético de Madrid, Real Betis, Real Sociedad and Villarreal CF face off in a sort of “Final Four” in the race for European qualifying spots. The teams currently occupying the last two spots in the Champions League will face those who can currently qualify for the Europa League and Conference League. These two head-to-head battles offer each club a chance to widen or narrow the gaps at this end of the table.
These four teams have been eliminated from their respective European competitions this season, meaning qualifying for next year’s continental football is now their only remaining goal for the remainder of this season. Therefore, this Sunday’s double-header will be key to finding out which teams are fighting for a ticket to the Champions League and which clubs need to defend their Europa League and Conference League spots to take part in next year’s European draws to be able to participate.
Atlético de Madrid and Real Betis, currently third and fifth-placed, face off in the final game of Sunday’s fixtures. Diego Simeone’s unit is in full swing in 2023 as their only game of the calendar year was lost to FC Barcelona on January 8th. Since then they have gone ten games unbeaten and have particularly impressed at home, beating Athletic Club 1-0, Sevilla FC 6-1 and Valencia CF 3-0 to cement their position in third place.
Los Verdiblancos are six points behind Madrid but just three points behind fourth place, so they hope to close the gap and avenge their 2-1 defeat athlete when these teams met at the Estadio Benito Villamarín earlier in the season. With the pursuit of a top four finish being so tight, head-to-head records could end up being crucial if the teams finish level on points, so that’s another factor for Manuel Pellegrini’s side to take into account.
Ahead of that game at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, fans can tune in to see sixth-placed Villarreal CF meet fourth-placed Real Sociedad, two teams who have also just been eliminated from European competitions this season. Coach Quique Setién’s side currently have 41 points meaning they are seven behind the Basques and making this game one of their last chances to retire to the Champions League. El Submarino Amarillo will look to return from the break with a win in what would be their fourth in five games in LaLiga Santander. Recently they played another head-to-head against Real Betis before scoring a great 3-0 win at CA Osasuna last time out.
As for Real Sociedad, they won 1-0 against Villarreal CF at the beginning of the season and they defeated Elche CF 2-0 in the previous game, a result that led to a poor result streak. They are desperate to get another three-pointer at the Estadio de la Cerámica to open a gap on their closest pursuers and get closer to their dream of returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2013.
These are two big games and the four clubs involved will be keeping an eye on both the other goal line and themselves. This Sunday’s results at the Estadio de la Cerámica and the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano could really make the difference in this year’s Champions League race, a goal shared by all coaches. With this evening of head-to-head matches, LaLiga Santander returns in true style.
tags: Atlético de Madrid, Barcelona FC, League Santander, Real Betis, real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Villarreal CF