GENEVA (AP) – Several rebel clubs in the Super League are facing harsh realities. Two of the top five leagues are still waiting for a champion. And some clubs with rich histories are threatened with relegation.
This year’s pandemic-hit European football season ends in many countries on the continent this weekend, with plenty to play.
Atlético Madrid are the surprise leaders in Spain and Lille are an even bigger shock in France. Both can clinch their league titles with a final victory, with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, respectively, on their heels.
Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan have already won their league titles, but many of their rivals are still in the race for Champions League qualification, which is crucial for their image and finances.
Some leagues will continue to play until May 29, ending just hours before Man City and Chelsea start the Champions League final in Porto, Portugal.
Manchester United could win the first game of England’s European double on Wednesday against Villarreal in the Europa League final in Gdansk, Poland.
The season’s finals in top leagues will stretch out throughout the weekend, with Spain playing their matches on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. GMT. Sunday is busier, starting with all 10 Premier League games at 3:00 p.m. GMT, with Italy’s key games starting at 6:45 p.m. GMT and France starting 15 minutes later at 7:00 p.m. GMT.
RACES IN THE TITLE
Atlético lead the Spanish standings by two points, but Real Madrid would win the title on a better head-to-head record if they finished tied.
Atlético, who let slip a big lead in mid-season, will travel to Valladolid on Saturday, while Real Madrid welcome Villarreal seventh. There’s a lot at stake for the other two teams as well, with Valladolid needing a win to have any chance of avoiding relegation and Villarreal looking to secure at least one Europa League spot for next season.
The matches in France arrive a day later.
Lille, which leads the championship by one point, plays in Angers, a team that has little to play in the middle of the standings. The defending PSG champion, however, will face a Brest side that can be dragged into a relegation playoff.
Even Monaco, third, who plays in Lens, could win the French title. He could also drop to fourth behind Lyon and not even enter the Champions League qualifying rounds.
In the other title races, the Danish league will be won by Brondby or Midtjylland on Monday. Maccabi Haifa has the advantage over Maccabi Tel Aviv for their first Israeli title in 10 years.
For a European club from a major market, the expected drop in turnover between playing in the Champions League or the Europa League would be 50 to 70 million euros (61 to 86 million dollars).
Understood, Liverpool, Juventus and AC Milan? Fourth place is good, fifth place very, very bad.
These three clubs were founding members of the doomed Super League project which quickly erupted and died just as quickly last month, adding spice to the danger they now face.
AC Milan occupy third place in Serie A, but with the most difficult game in second place at Atalanta. Fifth-placed Juventus travel to Bologna and could even reach third if fourth-placed Napoli slip at home against Verona.
Failure for Juventus would be further humiliation for club president Andrea Agnelli after the Super League fiasco. UEFA could still ban Juventus – as well as Real Madrid and Barcelona – if they continue to refuse to give up on the Super League.
Fifth place would also likely cost former midfielder Andrea Pirlo his post after just one season as Juventus coach.
Liverpool’s late push after an onset of crisis in 2021 put them in fourth place before welcoming Crystal Palace – a side coached by former Reds manager Roy Hodgson.
The four Champions League places in England are currently held by Super League rebels, while popular underdog Leicester weakened in May for the second year in a row and is currently in fifth place.
Leicester beat Chelsea to win the FA Cup on Saturday, then lost on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge in a game which included a mass brawl. The result carried Chelsea, who can also qualify for the Champions League next season by beating Man City in the final, to third place.
Chelsea travel to Aston Villa for their final game while Leicester welcome Tottenham, who sit in seventh and hold the spot that earns them a place in the new third tier Europa League.
Tottenham could completely escape European qualification and even be overtaken by neighbor Arsenal, who host Brighton. Everton are also in contention but visit Man City.
Union Berlin could qualify for the Europa Conference League in their second Bundesliga season. The seventh-place club hosts Leipzig on Saturday.
Werder Bremen’s successful past includes winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992 and the UEFA Cup final in 2009, but the German club are currently in contention for the qualifiers before hosting Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday.
The team could fall straight away if 17th-ranked Cologne beat the already relegated Schalke.
In France, Nantes welcomes Montpellier knowing that a victory could move it away from the place of the relegation qualifiers. A Champions League semi-finalist 25 years ago, Nantes looked doomed until they won four straight games starting last month.
Rangers and Red Star Belgrade ended seasons unbeaten to win their leagues in Scotland and Serbia, respectively.
Slavia Prague can join them with two games left in the Czech league, which ends on May 29.
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