Matchday 36 preview: Decision time in La Liga this weekend with all to play for up and down the table

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It is decision time up and down La Liga this weekend, with potentially decisive games in the title race, battle for European places, and struggle against relegation.

Second-placed Barcelona go to Real Valladolid on Saturday evening needing a victory to keep on the heels of leaders Real Madrid, with Lionel Messi and company knowing they cannot afford any more slip-ups.

Valladolid have climbed clear of the drop zone in recent weeks, while the game should be an interesting experience for their club president Ronaldo Nazario, a Copa del Rey winner with Barca and La Liga champion with Madrid during his playing career.

Should Barça drop points, Real Madrid might have the chance to clinch their first La Liga title since 2016/17 when they travel to Granada on Monday evening. Zinedine Zidane’s side have been in phenomenal form since La Liga restarted in mid-June and have won their last nine La Liga games against Granada by a combined score of 32-4. But the Andalusians proved themselves capable of an upset when they beat Barca earlier this season.

The weekend programme begins on Friday evening when safe in mid-table Osasuna host Celta Vigo, who still need more points to be mathematically secure from relegation. Celta have a good record at El Sadar too, with just one loss and one goal conceded across their last four visits.

Friday’s late game is Atletico Madrid looking to close in on third place in the table following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Celta, at home to a Real Betis team who on Wednesday ensured they would be playing in La Liga Santander next season by beating Osasuna 3-0 at home.

Wednesday also saw Espanyol’s relegation to La Liga SmartBank confirmed with a 1-0 derby loss at city neighbours Barcelona. Rufete’s team will still have pride to play for on Sunday lunchtime at home to an Eibar side who are not yet fully safe from relegation either.

Levante and Athletic Club can both be pretty happy with how their 2019-20 campaigns have gone - the Basque team will be out to continue their late push for Europa League qualification when they visit Levante’s temporary La Nucia stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Leganes have been hit by many challenges through recent months but have not yet given up hope of a miracle escape from relegation. On Sunday they welcome a Valencia team who boosted their European qualification hopes with a dramatic 2-1 win at home to Valladolid midweek.

There will be a similar mix of concerns at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan in Sunday’s late game when a Sevilla team still on course to make the Champions League for next season host a Real Mallorca side who need to win every game now and hope for an unlikely reprieve.

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Deportivo Alaves host Getafe on Monday evening in a clash of two teams whose form has not been great since the restart. Alaves’ new coach Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz has been tasked with assuring their safety from relegation, while Getafe’s Champions League hopes have faded with just one win in their last nine La Liga games.

European qualification will also be on the agenda when Villarreal host Real Sociedad on Monday at the Estadio de la Ceramica. Villarreal bounced back from a heavy defeat to Barcelona with an impressive 3-1 win at Getafe midweek to stay fifth in the table, having in recent weeks passed a La Real team who have yet to re-find their form from before the Covid-19 enforced break.

Watch LaLiga Santander live this weekend on SuperSport 7.