Preview: Vital weekend as top-four go head to head in La Liga

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by Paul Giblin

MADRID, May 6 (Xinhua) — This weekend promises to be decisive in the battle for the La Liga title as the top-four sides play each other in 48 hours that will test the nerves of their fans as time runs out in the title race.

The 35th round of matches sees third-place FC Barcelona entertain Atletico Madrid on Saturday afternoon, while second-place Real Madrid is at home to fourth place Sevilla on Sunday night.

Barca kicks off their game two points behind Atletico after last week’s fightback in Valencia and a win in the Camp Nou would take Ronald Koeman’s side to the top of the table.

A draw for Atletico would maintain their advantage over Barca but could open the door for Real Madrid to then move top on Sunday. Real Madrid starts the weekend two points behind their neighbors, but with a superior head-to-head goal difference to both Atletico and Barca, meaning they would be Champions if they finished level on points with either or both of their rivals.

However, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has difficulty lifting his side after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea on Wednesday night.

Madrid was second best all game and as well as the obvious blow to their morale, Zidane’s already tired players will face Sevilla with another 90 minutes in their already tired legs.

Sevilla is the outsiders in the title race and goes into the weekend six points behind Atletico after a 1-0 defeat at home to Athletic Club on Monday and much could also depend on how much belief Julen Lopetegui’s side show in Valdebebas.

Although the title race is the main event of the weekend, there are also plenty of sideshows, with the race for Europe still to be decided along with the dogfight to avoid the drop to the second division.

Both Europe and relegation are in the frame when fifth-place Real Sociedad entertain second from bottom Elche, who are only one point from safety.

Alaves need to recover from last weekend’s defeat to Eibar when they play at home to Levante, who are safe from the drop and seem to have taken their foot off the gas in recent weeks.

Third from bottom Huesca remain in the drop zone despite winning last week, but they may fancy their chances of something when they visit Cadiz, who last weekend assured their place in the top flight for another year.

Saturday ends with Athletic Club looking to win two consecutive matches for the first time all season when they entertain Osasuna. Athletic have several key players out through injury and coronavirus but retain a slim chance of qualifying for Europe.

Sunday kicks off with another relegation six-pointer as Getafe, who are four points from the relegation zone, face Eibar, who are four points from safety after beating Alaves last weekend to claim their first win in 16 games.

Valencia sacked coach Javi Gracia on Monday and Voro stands in again for Sunday’s clash with fourth from bottom Valladolid, who travel after four successive draws.

Villarreal play Celta in what promises to be an entertaining game between two teams in the top half of the table, with the round of games ending on Monday as sixth place Betis look to end a run of six draws in an Andalusian derby at home to Granada. Enditem

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