PHOTO: Archive - FCB

Valencia lost their Europa Cup semi final midweek and they face another enormous game on Sunday when they visit Malaga, who are just three points behind them. Valencia will go into the game without Sergio Canales, who suffered a serious knee injury on Thursday, after just coming back from a long layoff. Malaga’s Managing Director, Fernando Hiero, reckons: “this is the biggest game in our history”, whilst their midfielder Ignacio Camacho insisted: “these are three vital points”.

Levante still have hopes of making the Champions League spots, but with just a point from their last three games they are now three behind Malaga and need to get back to winning ways in their game at home to Granada on Sunday, before trips to Zaragoza and Mallorca and a season finale at home to Athletic Bilbao.

Europa Cup finalists chasing Levante

The two Europa Cup finalists, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, are both chasing Levante hard, just a point behind and boosted by their midweek success, they will be looking to keep up the pressure when they travel to Zaragoza and Betis respectively. Bilbao then have home games against Real Madrid and Getafe, before the Levante match, whilst Atletico host Real Sociedad and Malaga before they finish the league away to Villarreal.

Osasuna are a further point behind, but with Saturday’s game at Villarreal their first of three on the road and just one more game in Pamplona, they may find it hard to retake a European place.

Seville and Espanyol live in hope

Seville are a point behind Osasuna on 46 and welcome back veteran keeper Palop for a tough trip to the Bernabeu, where Madrid will be looking to bounce back from their penalty shootout disappointment, knowing that a win could possibly hand them the title. Espanyol are on 45 points and know that their last chance to stake a claim for Europe is Saturday’s visit of struggling Sporting to El Prat.

Villarreal hold key to relegation places

If Villarreal (37 points) can beat Osasuna, Clemente’s team (31) will be as good as down if they are beaten, as will Zaragoza – level on points with Sporting- if they can’t beat Bilbao, all of which led Villarreal’s Argentinean striker Marco Ruben to declare: “we can’t wait for this season to be over and we have to take the three points against Osasuna – it’ll give us a great chance of surviving”. In contrast, Zaragoza’s midfielder Apoño believes: “if Villarreal slip up against Osasuna and we beat Bilbao, we’ll just be a win away from salvation”