The 38th and final matchday of the 2022/23 LaLiga Santander season is taking place on Sunday night and there is still so much to be decided.
Four teams maintain hope of securing seventh to take final European qualification spot, that of the Conference League, and this quartet is separated by just one point. Then, there are six teams still at risk of relegation and they’re separated by just two points, so anything could happen over the course of the final 90 minutes of the season.
The 10 fixtures of Matchday 38 are split across two kick-off times, as the five matches that have implications for the Conference League and top half of the table are taking place at 5:30pm Nigerian time, while the five fixtures that will determine the outcome of the relegation battle are starting at 9pm Nigerian time.
The race towards the Conference League
Going into the final day, CA Osasuna currently boast 50 points and occupy seventh place, knowing that a victory will guarantee a return to European competition for the first time since 2007. That’s easier said than done, however, because Los Rojillos will be taking on a direct rival, ninth-placed Girona FC, who are just one point behind in the standings.
These are two excellently-coached teams and they should produce a thrilling spectacle, one that CA Osasuna will have home advantage for at a packed-out El Sadar.
Athletic Club Bilbao may have lost their past two matches, but they still have a chance of sneaking into seventh by the full-time whistle of the season. They travel to the Bernabéu to take on Real Madrid and need to win that fixture and also hope that CA Osasuna vs Girona FC is either a draw or an away win.
The Basques have not won away at Real Madrid since 2005, but they were coached by Ernesto Valverde that day and, as the current coach, he’ll lead Los Leones to the capital feeling confident.
10th-placed Rayo Vallecano are also just one point behind CA Osasuna, so will look to capitalise if other results go their way. The capital city side travel to RCD Mallorca on the final day for what will be departing coach Andoni Iraola’s final match at the club. Whether they secure European football or not, Isi Palazón, Álvaro García, Raúl de Tomás and co. will want to take the three points.
The other team that could still finish in the top seven is Sevilla FC, who’ll visit a Real Sociedad side that have already secured Champions League football. Given that Sevilla FC won their seventh Europa League title on Wednesday, they’ll be joining La Real in next year’s Champions League but could yet shake up the race for seventh and deny the other contenders a European ticket.
Also in the early kick-off time is Villarreal CF vs Atlético de Madrid. While these teams are already certain of their European status for next season, Atleti are jostling for position with Real Madrid for second place.
The tightest relegation battle in years
At the 8pm Nigerian time slot, we’ll find out who’ll join already-relegated Elche CF and RCD Espanyol in going down to LaLiga SmartBank. Real Valladolid currently occupy the dreaded 18th position on 39 points, but they face a direct rival as they host Getafe CF, who are 14th with 41 points.
Therefore, both teams have their fate in their own hands, as a Real Valladolid win would see them leapfrog Los Azulones.
Besides those two, there are four other clubs at risk. RC Celta are currently just above the drop zone and will have to face LaLiga Santander champions FC Barcelona at home. But, the Galician side have a good record against Barça at the Abanca Balaídos, as they’ve lost just one of their past seven home league games against the Catalan outfit.
UD Almería are another of the at-risk clubs and they’ll visit already-relegated RCD Espanyol on the final day. However, the Andalusians have the worst away record in LaLiga Santander, so that won’t be an easy game.
As for Cádiz CF and Valencia CF, they’re both two points clear of the drop zone and within touching distance of safety, but nothing is secured yet. Los Amarillos will visit Elche CF on the final day and Los Che will go away to Real Betis. Both Cádiz CF and Valencia CF have been playing well in recent weeks, so will look to finish the job on Sunday night, when the final standings of this dramatic LaLiga Santander season will be fully confirmed.
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