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La Liga preview: European spots on the line

13 May 2012 04:11

Three European places and the relegation fates of two sides will be decided on a tense final day in La Liga.

Following their 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday, Europa League champions Atletico Madrid now have their eye on a much bigger prize - Champions League football.

With league champions Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia sealing the other three berths, Atletico will battle Malaga and Levante for Spain's fourth and final Champions League place.

Despite two-straight defeats Malaga (55 points) remain in prime position, with a win over all-but relegated Sporting Gijon required for them to seal the final spot.

Atletico (53) face a tricky trip to Villarreal (who must also win to ensure they are not relegated) and like Levante, will be hoping Malaga fail to win to give both sides a chance.

If Atletico defeat Villarreal and Malaga only manage a draw that would be enough for the former to take the final spot on the basis of their superior goal difference.

However, only a win for Levante (52) at home to Bilbao will be enough provided Atletico fail to win and Malaga lose to Sporting Gijon.

To survive the drop, Gijon must defeat Malaga and make up a five-goal difference on Rayo Vallecano, who can seal Gijon's fate with at least a draw at home to Granada.

Granada have been hit with a host of suspensions following a melee in their heated 2-1 defeat away to Real Madrid and depending on the results of Villarreal and Real Zaragoza, may need a point against Vallecano to avoid relegation.

They will have to do without winger Dani Benitez, who was suspended for three months by the Spanish Football Federation for throwing a plastic bottle at the referee, while midfielder Moises Hurtado and defender Siqueira were banned for four matches and striker Alex Geijo for one.

Champions Real survived the tense finale relatively unscathed and will parade the trophy at the Bernabeu when they take on sixth-placed Mallorca.

Another win would see Jose Mourinho's side set a new La Liga record of 100 points, beating Barcelona's mark of 99 points set in 2010.

Barcelona play the last game of Pep Guardiola's tenure against Real Betis at the Camp Nou, with Lionel Messi having the chance to add to his record La Liga tally of goals, which stands at 50.

A host of teams could finish in fifth and sixth place and earn one of the two Europa League berths - including Malaga if they fail to win, Atletico, Levante, Mallorca (52), Osasuna (51), Sevilla (49) and Athletic Bilbao (49).

With five teams still threatened with the drop only Racing Santander are certain to play second division football next season.

In other matches that should have little bearing, Valencia travel to Real Sociedad on Saturday and Espanyol are at home to Sevilla.

On Sunday, Santander play host to Osasuna and Getafe welcome Real Zaragoza.

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