La Liga final day permutations: Europe and relegation battle take centre stage

We have entered the final weekend of the La Liga season. The top six places, along with the bottom two spots, have already been decided. However, going into the last round, a (potential) place in the Europa Conference League, as well as the final relegation spot, are on the line. Between those two places in the table, 11 teams are involved.

Here is a look at the permutations for the 11 sides involved in the UECL (UEFA Europa Conference League) and relegation tussles.

Europa Conference League battle: Osasuna (50 points), Athletic Club (50), Girona (49), Rayo Vallecano (49), Sevilla (49)

Four teams are in contention for Spain’s final European place, which would entitle them to a spot in the UEFA Europa Conference League playoff round.

Osasuna go into Sunday in the driver’s seat. Holding onto seventh on head-to-head over Atheltic Club, the Copa del Rey finalists just needs to defeat Girona to secure a return to continental football. A draw will be enough if Athletic Club, Rayo Vallecano and Sevilla all fail to pick up three points.

Despite an impressive start to the campaign, Athletic Club capitulated over the last month, with five losses in seven. Travelling to the capital to face Real Madrid, Ernesto Valverde’s men need a win along with an Osasuna loss or draw to make Europe. The Basque outfit have missed out on continental football for four seasons running. Will it be five?

Girona also stand on the precipice of making it into Europe. The Catalans will be in the UECL playoff round draw in August should they defeat Osasuna and Athletic Club drop points at the Bernabeu. They also have the tiebreaker advantage over both Rayo Vallecano (goal difference) and Sevilla (head-to-head), as well as in a three-way tie with the pair. Girona has never participated in UEFA club competition before. A golden opportunity is on the line there.

A second European campaign is still within reach for Rayo Vallecano. The side from Vallecas head to Mallorca, knowing a win and some help will see them become Spain’s second ever team in the UECL. That help involves Osasuna and Girona drawing, while Athletic Club drop points. Rayo has the head-to-head over Sevilla, therefore, it would not matter what the Andalusians do.

As for Sevilla, they are in an interesting situation. After defeating Roma in the Europa League final on Wednesday, it means that they have already qualified for Europe, so Champions League football will return to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán next season. That said, Sevilla will finish seventh if they defeat Real Sociedad away, while both Athletic Club and Rayo Vallecano, and the match between Osasuna and Girona ends level.

In this situation, if Sevilla ends the season in seventh, Spain will not have a place in the Europa Conference League to start the 2023-24 season, since the Andalusians already qualified for the UCL via their Europa League title. The Conference League place is not passed down to the next best team in this scenario. This happened in the 2020-21 season, as Villarreal won the Europa League and finished seventh in the league. On that occasion, no Spanish team played in the UECL’s inaugural edition.

Relegation battle: Cádiz (41), Getafe (41), Valencia (41), Almería (40), Celta Vigo (40), Real Valladolid (39)

This is a remarkable relegation situation in LaLiga. With six teams entering the final day trying to avoid 18th place, this is truly a unique scenario. We could see some incredible situations happen here, the most bizarre being a team being relegated on 41 points.

Cádiz is in the best position to stay up. Facing already-relegated Elche away, the only way for them to get relegated is by them losing, and finishing level on points with Getafe. In this case, Getafe would have to lose to Real Valladolid, while Almería and Celta Vigo both win, plus Valencia avoid defeat. This would result in both Cádiz and Getafe ending up on 41 points, with the latter staying in the league on goal difference.

As for Getafe, they could do everyone else around them a huge favour by beating Real Valladolid, which would send them down. A defeat, however, could be the ultimate blow. Like Cádiz, a lot would have to go wrong here for them. If they lose, while Almería draw, Celta Vigo win, and Cádiz and Valencia pick up at least a point, Getafe will go down. Almería hold the head-to-head, which would seal their fate. If they end up level with solely Valencia, the same fate happens, also due to head-to-head. For this to happen, Getafe would have to lose, while Cádiz avoid defeat, and both Almería and Celta win.

The most storied club of the half dozen – Valencia – are still trying to maintain their Primera División status for 2023-24. A defeat at Real Betis, paired with wins for Almería, Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid would see the former Champions League finalists suffer a second ever relegation from the top flight. Even if they finish level on 41 points with one or both of Cádiz or Getafe, Valencia would lose out on head-to-head.

Almería have the best head-to-head against all the teams around them, yet, there is still one way for them to go down. Travelling to relegated Espanyol on the last day, a defeat, while both Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid pick up a result, would mean an immediate return to the Segunda División. If Almería finish on 40 points along with Valladolid, they will go down on head-to-head.

Celta Vigo finds themselves in a very unique position. Outside of Valladolid, the Galicians lose the head-to-head battle with all the other teams in this fight. The situation could not be simpler for Celta. If they drop points at home to champions Barcelona, and Valladolid win, then Celta will go down. Carlos Carvalhal’s side could finish on 41 points alongside Cádiz, Getafe, Valencia and Almeria and they would still go down as they would finish bottom of a five-way head-to-head. In this case, Getafe, Cádiz, and Valencia would all have to lose, while Celta and Almería draw. If either one or both of Cádiz and Valencia avoid defeat, Celta would still go down, losing out on head-to-head. The only situation they do not lose out on head-to-head is if they finish on the same number of points with Real Valladolid, which in that case they would stay up on goal difference.

For Valladolid, the situation could not be any simpler: defeat to Getafe will relegate them. A draw would also not be enough if Almería avoid defeat. In that scenario, even if Celta lose, Valladolid would go down due to having an inferior goal difference.

David Parkes

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