As Tottenham, Man U battle for EPL Top Four
By Paul Erewuba
The race for the title of different leagues in Europe has indeed entered its feverish stage with few games to end the season.
Once again, the two historic rivals in the La Liga – Barcelona and Real Madrid are fighting tooth and nail for the Spanish league title with Zinedine Zidane’s men currently holding the edge.
The two teams are set to go head to head in what has all the makings of a thrilling battle to be crowned champions of the La Liga.
They are locked on 84 points each at the top of the table but Madrid have the edge due to the game in hand they will play in between the final two weekends of the campaign.
There are also European spots and a relegation place to be decided over the next two weeks as 2016-17 season draws to a close.
Barcelona currently lead Real Madrid at the summit on the strength of their head-to-head record, but Madrid can make top spot their own by winning their game in hand. That comes away from home against Celta Vigo on Wednesday, May 17.
Barca go away to Las Palmas before hosting Eibar, while in addition to their Celta clash Madrid have a home match against Sevilla to navigate before concluding their campaign at Malaga.
No doubt, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have all qualified for next season’s Champions League, while Sevilla need one more point to ensure they join them over Villarrea.
The team that finishes in fourth will have to play a two-legged play-off round tie to reach the group stage.
Villarreal currently occupy the first of two Europa League places, but Athletic Club and Real Sociedad are just a point behind them. Athletic are currently hanging on to the second spot as they have the head-to-head edge over Sociedad.
There is a good chance, however, that all three will find themselves in Europe. If Barcelona beat Alaves in the Copa del Rey final, the Europa League place awarded to the winner of that competition will slide to the seventh-place team in La Liga.
Celta Vigo could also qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League. As they are not going to qualify for Europe domestically and Spain would have eight teams in continental competition next season.
Osasuna and Granada have been relegated and Sporting Gijon are also in deep trouble.
Sporting can catch both Deportivo and Leganes, but will need to win both of their remaining matches to have any chance of surviving. Either of the three clubs can ensure their safety by picking up one more point, with Deportivo staying ahead of Sporting even if they both finished with 33 points due to their head-to-head record.
In the English Premier League (EPL), Tottenham HotSpur will host Manchester United tomorrow in a crucial battle for the top four.
The hosts have already locked up their ticket for next year’s UEFA Champions League, but Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City are still hoping to beat Manchester United in the race.
The Baggies have a reputation for defensive resilience, especially against the top clubs, but they have lost four of their last five matches and should not threaten the title celebrations in their current form.
Liverpool is in the same boat, and the third-placed club visit West Ham, who all but ended Spurs’ title hopes in their last match. The Reds have won just one of their last three matches and need to turn things around in a hurry.
Fourth-placed Manchester City have also won just one of their last three, while sixth-placed Arsenal have improved slightly after a poor run.
The Citizens won’t have it easy at home against a resurgent Leicester City side, which have little left to play for sitting in ninth place. On paper, Arsenal will have the easiest outing in Week 37, with a visit to 13th-placed Stoke City.
In the race against relegation, there will be a huge fixture on Sunday, as 16th-placed Crystal Palace can secure their Premier League spot for next season at home against third-bottom placed Hull City. Fourth-bottom Swansea City visit bottom side Sunderland a day earlier, and with the Black Cats beating Hull in their last outing, the Welsh side won’t take their opponents lightly.
A win in South London for the Tigers could set up a very exciting final day in the Premier League, but if Hull lose and Swansea win, the relegation battle would be over.