With Real Madrid already crowned champions, attention turned to the battle for European places and the fight to avoid relegation. The big news this week is that Atletico Madrid guaranteed themselves a shot at the Champions League next season, though like Barcelona they will have to get through a qualifying round in August. The last time Atletico played Champions League football was in March 1997 when they lost a quarter final tie to Ajax.
Atletico’s success this season has been based on their excellent attacking duo of Kun Agüero and Diego Forlan. Agüero has scored 18 league goals while the Uruguayan grabbed his 15th of the season in yesterday’s 1-0 victory over Deportivo. It was not an easy victory as Depor defended well, but just before half time Agüero sent Maxi Rodriguez down the left and his cross was met by Forlan with a side foot volley which crept under the body of Depor’s keeper Aouate and into the net.
Sevilla will miss out on the Champions League but they assured themselves a place in the Uefa Cup with a 0-2 win over rivals Betis. Luis Fabiano got Sevilla’s first with his 24th league goal of the season and Fazio made it two in the 50th minute. The game turned ugly in the 53rd minute with a free-for-all that ended with Dani Alves sent off for headbutting Pavone and Betis midfielder Arzu also saw red for punching Alves. There was consolation for Betis as other results meant they are now mathematically safe from relegation.
The other Uefa Cup place is between Racing Santander and Mallorca. Racing missed their chance to take that place yesterday when they could only draw 0-0 at Athletic Bilbao. Athletic had the better of a game with few chances and Jorge Lopez missed Racing’s best chance in the 81st minute.
Mallorca kept up their hopes with a fifth consecutive win, this time over Barça at Camp Nou. With the public out to protest for Barça’s season it was difficult for the blaugrana to play a good game. There were boos for president Laporta and also for Deco and Eto’o who some fans feel deliberately got booked last week so as not to have to applaud Real Madrid onto the pitch on Wednesday. Barça, however, still managed to take a two goal lead through Henry and Eto’o, but after Leo Messi was substituted in the 62nd minute Barça fell apart. Mallorca took full advantage and goals from Valero and Webo brought them level and then in the 93rd minute Dani Güiza scored to make it 2-3 and the Camp Nou crowd had the bedsheets out in protest. Click here for more on Barça-Mallorca.
At the bottom end of the table the team looking most likely to join Levante and Murcia in the second division next season is Zaragoza. Playing at home to Real Madrid they were hoping to take advantage of a possible relaxation on the part of the champion. Oliveira put Zaragoza in front after 19 minutes but Madrid showed they would not lie down easily. Van Nistlerooy equalized soon after, and both teams had chances to increase the scoreline. With 15 minutes remaining Robinho beat Cesar in a one-on one to put Madrid in the lead but Zaragoza hit back in the 85th minute with a goal from Sergio Fernandez. The result leaves Zaragoza third from bottom but their fate is in their own hands, they need to win at Mallorca next week and they will definitely stay up.
Osasuna climbed above Zaragoza by beating relegated Murcia 2-1 at the Reyna de Navarro stadium. Dady and Juanfran put the home team two goals in front before vAbel got a last minute consolation for Murcia. Osasuna now also depend on themselves to stay up but need to get a result at Racing next week to be sure of survival.
The other two candidates for the drop Recreativo and Valladolid play each other next weekend. Yesterday, Recre did themselves a huge favour by winning the Andalucian derby at Almeria 0-2. First half goals from Jesus Vazquez and Sinama Pongolle were enough for Recre who held on for the victory despite having Bouzon sent off just before half time.
Valladolid could do no better than a 0-0 draw at home to Getafe. The point was sufficient to make Getafe safe but Valladolid also played as if they would settle for a point. The result being a cagey game of few chances for either team.
Valencia also made sure of their first division status with a 1-5 win against doomed local rivals Levante. With new coach Voro, Valencia have won three out of four games while under Ronald Koeman they only managed four wins in 22. David Villa is looking back to his best and yesterday he grabbed a hat-trick, Mata and Angulo chipped in with a goal a-piece while Serrano scored Levante’s consolation.
In the only other game yesterday there was no more than pride to play for, and Villarreal celebrated their qualification for next season’s Champions League with a 2-0 home win over Espanyol. Javi Venta and Robert Pires got the goals in the first half.
Top Six: Real Madrid 82, Villarreal 74, Barcelona 64, Atletico Madrid 64, Sevilla 61, Racing 57.
Bottom Six: Valladolid 44, Recreativo 43, Osasuna 43, Zaragoza 42, Murcia 30, Levante 26.
Top Scorers: Güiza 26, Luis Fabiano 24, Raul 18, Agüero 18, Nihat 18.