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Dramatic relegation battles mark La Liga last round

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Madrid, Spain | THE INDEPENDENT |  The destiny of the La Liga title and the relegation battles are dramatic in the final round on Saturday afternoon.

After 37 games, Atletico Madrid will be champions if they win their last game of the season away to Valladolid. However, if they draw or lose, Real Madrid will have the chance on the basis of beating Villarreal at home.

Atletico travel to Valladolid after nerve wracking wins at home to Real Sociedad, where they had to cling on for a 2-1 win, and against Osasuna, where two goals in the last eight minutes saw them come back for a dramatic win when all appeared to be lost.

Stefan Savic is out through suspension for the last game and Felipe will come into the team alongside Jose Gimenez.

It is also a vital match for Valladolid, who receive Atletico second from bottom and two points from safety after 11 games without a win and three consecutive defeats. Nothing but a win will save Valladolid from relegation and even then they will need results in Huesca and Elche to go their way.

Real Madrid are without Toni Kroos with COVID-19 for their game at home to Villarreal, while Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez are also out.

Real Madrid have to win and hope Atletico slip up, but they too face a rival with everything to play for as Villarreal also need three points to qualify for next season’s Europa League.

Unai Emery’s side will play in the Europa League final against Manchester United next Wednesday and that may have some effect on Emery’s team selection, but it would be a big risk to rest key players on Saturday and bet everything on winning in midweek.

Elsewhere Real Sociedad will qualify for the Europa League in fifth place if they win their local derby away to Osasuna, who gave tons of problems to Atletico last weekend.

Betis can also return to Europe if they win away to Celta, who have been one of the form teams in the second half of the campaign. If both Real Sociedad and Betis are ahead in their matches, that could of course have an effect on Villarreal’s tactics in Madrid.

The remaining drama is at the bottom end of the table, where Valladolid, Elche and Huesca are battling to avoid the last two relegation spots.

Valladolid are two points adrift from Elche and Huesca and nothing but a win against Atletico will save them, but they will still go down if Huesca take a point from their home game against Valencia and Elche win at home to Athletic Club Bilbao, who travel in mid-table limbo and with several key players out injured.

Elche will have the benefit of having 5,000 fans in their ground as coronavirus levels in the Valencia region mean limited numbers of supporters are allowed to attend matches.

The other matches between Levante and Cadiz, Granada and Getafe, and Sevilla against Alaves have nothing to play for, although Sevilla could move above FC Barcelona, who end their campaign against Eibar. Eibar say goodbye to the top-flight after seven seasons in what will almost certainly be Ronald Koeman’s last game as Barca coach after his side’s title challenge slipped away in the last weeks of the season.

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XINHUA

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