MADRID, April 30 (Xinhua) — Matchday 34 promises to be vital in the battle for La Liga title and to avoid relegation as the season reaches a point where any mistake could mean the end of for the ambitions of the teams looking to either win the title or avoid relegation.
1. Another juggling act for Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has a similar problem to the one he faced last weekend when his side play Osasuna before their decisive Champions League semifinal return to Chelsea on Wednesday.
Last weekend saw Zidane choose to save players for the first leg and his side dropped two vital points in the title race with a 0-0 draw at home to Betis. Now with Real Madrid needing to score in London on Wednesday, he once again has to decide whether to rest the legs of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema and risk dropping more points against one of the best sides in the second half of the season or to go all out for both titles.
FC Barcelona’s shock defeat to Granada on Thursday gave Real Madrid’s title hopes a boost and that may influence the coach, who looks certain to give minutes to Fernand Mendy, Fede Valverde and Eden Hazard in their efforts to reach full fitness.
2. Relegation and the title at stake in Elche
Saturday’s game between Elche and Atletico Madrid is a huge game for both in their respective aims to avoid relegation and to win the title.
Elche climbed out of the bottom three after beating Levante last weekend, but Valladolid’s point in Bilbao on Wednesday dropped them back into the relegation zone, while Atletico’s defeat in the same San Mames Stadium on Sunday meant they have dropped 17 points from the last 11 games, although Barca’s defeat on Thursday means they still have a two-point cushion at the top of the table.
Luis Suarez should be able to start for Atletico, but coach Diego Simeone knows he has to be more aggressive with his team selection than a week ago if they are to keep their title hopes alive.
3. Barca need to react quickly
Barcelona’s 2-1 defeat at home to Granada on Thursday night has to go down as one of the surprises of the season as Ronald Koeman’s side slipped up just when it looked as if they were going to take a huge step towards the title and go to the top of the table.
Probably nobody is more surprised at the defeat that the Barca players and coach and now they have to react for Sunday’s visit to Valencia.
Mestalla has traditionally been a difficult ground for Barca to visit and although Valencia are having a poor season, they are unbeaten in their last eight home games. Barca have to end that run if they want to keep their title hopes alive and Pedri and Clement Lenglet will be back for a game Barca quite simply have to win.
4. Different fortunes in key Basque derby
Alaves make the short trip to Eibar on Saturday afternoon with their morale much improved after two wins and two draws in the four games since Javier Calleja replaced Abelardo Fernandez have lifted them off the bottom of the table to fifth from bottom, a point above the relegation zone.
The return of Lucas Perez to partner Joselu in attack has given Alaves a more positive approach and they will be looking for all three points against a rival that can’t buy a win at the moment.
Monday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Real Sociedad left Eibar bottom of the table, seven points from safety and without a win in 16 league games.
Eibar haven’t been awful in that run, but individual errors seem to cost them dear in nearly every game and they need to end this trend to have any chance of salvation. Enditem