A rare midweek matchday in La Liga will see Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid heavily favored — with one exception, which we’ll get to later — so let’s talk, again, about the race for fourth place (and the ’19-20 Champions League).
Last weekend, fourth-place Getafe, fifth-place Alavés and sixth-place Sevilla all suffered shutout losses. Disappointing results, obviously, but less so because none of those teams are any further from UCL qualification than they were before matchday 29.
The team that should be most concerned is Getafe, whose 2-0 loss to Leganés was difficult to see coming. While losing by a score of 4-0 is embarrassing, Alavés’ result against Atleti was understandable considering the opponent. Sevilla’s 1-0 loss to Valencia means the race is now more crowded, as the gap between Getafe (46 points) and Valencia, which is tied with Sevilla with 43 points, could be closed by the end of this week.
Key La Liga Match-Ups
Here are quick breakdowns of what’s next for each of these UCL hopefuls.
- Getafe at Espanyol – today, 2:30 p.m. Eastern: A must-win game for the current leaders of this race, who cannot afford another loss to a team in the bottom half of the standings. Espanyol is coming off a loss to Barcelona and has won just one of its last five matches. Getafe, which has not lost back-to-back games all season, will need to remain resilient over the final nine games of the season.
- Alavés at Sevilla – Thursday, 1:30 p.m. Eastern: Alavés entered the loss to Atlético somewhat of an enigma. Was this team much better than what metrics like goal-differential seemed to indicate? Or was it a matter of time before it was exposed as a pretender? The 4-0 loss to Los Rojiblancos was not a good sign, but Alavés has a great opportunity to bounce back in a pivotal game against Sevilla. I like Sevilla – which has lost three of five – to win this one at home, but this is the most compelling match-up of the week.
- Valencia vs. Real Madrid – Wednesday, 3:30 p.m. Eastern: If Valencia can upset Real Madrid at home, we might have a new favorite in this race – and it could be a team we’ve barely mentioned until now. Los Blancos are hard to predict with the way Zinedine Zidane is shuffling lineups. Will we see more of his son in goal? Valencia is quietly the hottest team in Spain outside of the big three, as it is unbeaten in league play since Jan. 5, with five wins and six draws since. They’ll most likely need to pile up more wins than draws in their final nine to qualify for the UCL, but they deserve your attention right now. FiveThirtyEight, FWIW, gives Valencia a 44 percent chance to win, while saying that a Real Madrid victory (32 percent) is more likely than a draw (24 percent).