The domestic season is coming to an end, and while Barcelona could wrap up the La Liga title next week, there are still other battles to be fought with four matches left to play.
Atlético need a miracle if they are to qualify for the Champions League. Villarreal would have to lose three of their four remaining games to give Atleti any hope of playing in Europe’s top competition. Instead, Atlético will have to focus on qualifying for the Europa League.
As Barcelona and Real Madrid both reached the Copa del Rey final, seventh in the league is now a European spot, however this does require an extra preliminary round with matches to be played on July 28th and August 4th. This would be bad news for Atleti, as the club plans to tour Asia this summer.
Upon our return we would play various friendlies inside Spain, before the league commences on the weekend of August 28th.
Atlético have four more games in the race to finish in 5th, starting with Málaga on Saturday. All of the teams we are set to face are fighting to avoid relegation, but Málaga seem to have found some form right in time to avoid the drop. They haven’t lost in four matches and have collected 16 out of a possible 21 points. The resurgence is undoubtedly linked with the return of Brazilian international Julio Baptista, who joined Málaga in January but has only recently recovered from injury.
Then on Tuesday we play Racing Santander at el Sardinero in a midweek round of La Liga. In our last three games in Cantabria, Atleti took only one point, conceding 9 goals. However, we should be able to count on Diego Forlán who has scored four times in his three visits to Racing.
On the 15th or 16th of May we play the last home match of the season against Hércules, who might already be down by the time they travel to Madrid. They are currently languishing in 19th place, five points from safety. We expect the Vicente Calderón to be rocking on this final home game!
In the final weekend of this campaign we travel to Mallorca. We haven’t won on the sunny island since 29 February 2004, when Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game.
Whether we finish in the spot we aim for depends not only on our opponents, but also on our rivals for the Europa League places. Because of poor results against them this season, Atleti will have to finish at least one point ahead, because La Liga is decided on head-to-head records when teams are level on points.
Last night Athletic and Espanyol crossed swords in Bilbao with the visitors coming away with the win, meaning they are now back in the race for 5th place.
Espanyol have a very tough schedule. Besides taking on Sevilla on the final day they also have fixtures against Barcelona (away), Valencia (home) and Zaragoza (away). Out of the Europa League teams, Espanyol clearly have the hardest run-in.
In recent history Sevilla has become, without a doubt, Atlético’s second biggest rival. But perhaps the one club we like even less can do us a favour. This weekend Sevilla play Real Madrid at home, before travelling to Osasuna, hosting Real Sociedad and ending the season at Espanyol.
Athletic Bilbao have a similar schedule to us, as they face mostly teams battling in the lower half of the table. First they play Levante, who have already secured survival, before facing Deportivo (away), Málaga (home) and Racing (away).
Against Sevilla, Athletic and Espanyol we have a negative head-to-head record, so we will have to make sure to collect more points than them in the coming weeks in order to take possession of 5th place.
In which position do you think Atlético will end up?