Sat, 08 Aug 2020

MADRID, July 3 (Xinhua) -- There are five more games left to play in the La Liga season and 16 more frantic days of competition lying ahead with the title, qualification for Europe and relegation still to be decided.

The 34th round of matches kicks off on Friday night with Atletico Madrid facing Mallorca in the Wanda Metropolitano in a match that has both the Champions League and relegation at stake.

Four wins and two draws since the return of La Liga have lifted Atletico into the third place with a five-point cushion over fifth-placed Villarreal, while third from bottom Mallorca's 5-1 thrashing of Celta on Saturday leaves them five points behind the team they beat at the weekend and six behind Eibar and Alaves.

Celta could give themselves an eight point cushion if they beat Real Betis in Friday's opening game, and coach Oscar Garcia will expect a reaction against a rival that has lost four out of six games since the restart with their only win against rock-bottom Espanyol.

Alaves have also struggled since the return of football with five defeats from six games, and coach Asier Garitano needs something from their visit to Valladolid, who look to be almost safe on 37 points (but who could be drawn into a relegation battle if Mallorca spring a surprise in the Wanda Metropolitano).

Valencia's dreadful recent form saw Albert Celades sacked at the start of the week, but to little effect as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat at home to Athletic Club on Wednesday night. They travel to Granada on Saturday with both clubs' four points off a place in next season's Europa League and needing a win to maintain their options.

Valencia's stand-in coach Voro Gonzalez is without injured Spain international Rodrigo Moreno, which is a big loss for a team without a goal in its last three games.

Sunday could be the day which decides this season's title, as league leaders Real Madrid visit Athletic Bilbao in the San Mames stadium. Madrid had a controversial win over Getafe on Thursday thanks to a Sergio Ramos penalty, which lifted them four points clear of Barca.

Athletic are also in excellent form with three wins in four games, and have an extra day to prepare for the game, although Madrid's deeper squad could cancel out that advantage.

Sunday also sees Barcelona visit Villarreal in what promises to be a key game in their season: recent poor performances have fueled rumors of a poor atmosphere at the club, with key players unhappy with coach Quique Setien and his assistant Eder Sarabia. If there are any cracks on show they are likely to be exposed by a Villarreal whose run of five wins and a draw have taken them to fifth place, just three points behind Sevilla.

Failure to win in Villarreal would be another serious blow to Barca's title hopes, while another poor display could even lead the club to consider replacing Setien for the Champions League in August.

Sunday also sees what surely must be the last chance for bottom club Espanyol and second from bottom Leganes to give themselves a faint chance to avoid relegation, while Getafe pursue their European ambitions away to Osasuna.

The round of games ends on Monday with Real Sociedad taking their European ambitions to face Levante, while Sevilla and Eibar face off in a game with a top-four spot and relegation at stake.

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