The battle for European football | La Liga and Ligue 1 still have a lot of drama left on tap

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The battle for European football | La Liga and Ligue 1 still have a lot of drama left on tap

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Siddhant Lazar

Last Saturday at 6:40 PM

While the league titles in both France and Spain decided, the season is not even close to being over because with two games left, we’ve got eight European spots left and eleven teams in the race. It means for three teams, their hopes and dreams of playing on that European stage may not come true.

Two leagues, ten teams and a lot to be decided. That is what Spain and France have to offer us and that does indeed include an almighty five-team battle for European football in the La Liga and a six-team European battle in the Ligue 1. So, let’s get this show on the road, now shall we?

First up, is France and everything they offer us.

The Ligue 1’s battle for the European football:

While PSG have been confirmed as Champions, the second and third place spots are still up for grabs which means that we’ve got a five way battle for two places. However, that also means that there is a battle for the Europa League and Europa Conference league places as well. Let’s see who can what, shall we?

For Marseille (2nd with 68 points) to finish in a Champions League place:

Marseille © Twitter

As it stands, the lowest Marseille could finish is sixth which isn’t good news especially given how they were, and still are, considered favourites to finish second. But things are made better by the fact that they place Stade Rennais and RC Strasbourg, who are fifth and sixth respectively at the moment. It means that Marseille will have a say in who finishes where but two points will ensure them at least a third place finish.

That’s because OGC Nice (4th with 63 points) can only reach a maximum of 69 while AS Monaco (3rd with 65 points) can reach a maximum of 71. However, should Marseille better Monaco’s results while keeping Nice at bay, then their second place berth should be secure.

For AS Monaco (3rd with 65 points) to finish in a Champions League place:

Much like Marseille, as it stands Monaco will also finish in a Champions League spot but they’ll get the qualifiers although that could change depending on the Europa League final. Should Rangers win that tournament then third place in France earns a direct ticket to the group stages. It’s UEFA’s rules, no use in figuring why or how.

However, for Monaco to keep their third place spot, they’ll need to ensure that they better OGC Nice’s results or earn at least five points from their two games. That would put the result beyond any doubt and beyond either Nice or Stade Rennais’ grasp.

For OGC Nice (4th with 63 points) to finish in a Champions League place:

Their loss to Nantes in the Coupe de France means that sixth place won’t get a play-off spot for the Conference League group stage and that Nantes will earn a Europa League group stage spot.  But should both Marseille and AS Monaco lose their remaining two games and Nice manage to beat LOSC Lille and Stade Reims, then they’ll finish second at the very least which should be the bare minimum they get after the season they've had. 

However, should Marseille earn even a point from their games, then Nice will need to ensure that they make up the difference in Goal Difference which currently sits in Marseille’s favour at +23 to +17. A third-place finish is also possible but Monaco have a two-point buffer at the moment, so Nice will need to win at least one game and hope that Monaco don’t earn more than four points.

Should they (Monaco) finish on 69 points then, much like the Marseille scenario, Nice will need to make up that difference in Goal Difference which currently sits in Monaco’s favour at +23 to +17.  They could still get European football if they lose both their games but that will depend on results elsewhere and thus puts it outside their control. 

For Stade Rennais (5th with 62 points) to finish in a Champions League place:

Another simple permutation because since the highest that Rennais can earn is only 68 points, they’ll need to hope that all three sides above them lose their games. That will earn them a direct qualification spot, or 2nd place, because of their superior Goal Difference (+40). However, they could also finish 3rd if two of Nice, Monaco and Marseille lose both their remaining games and they (Rennais) win both theirs.

However, as it stands, they are confirmed for a Europa Conference League group stage spot but to keep that, Stade Rennais will need to ensure that they better RC Strasbourg’s results. Should they (Stade Rennais) be interested in a Europa League spot, then they’ll need to better Nice’s results and hope that Nice don’t win more than six points.

For RC Strasbourg (6th with 60 points) to finish in a Champions League place:

A minor miracle, that’s what they need. Because Strasbourg can only earn a maximum of 66 points which will, as things stand, earn them a 3rd place finish. But that’s only if Monaco don’t earn more than two points, if Nice don’t earn more than three and if Stade Rennais don’t earn more than four points from their remaining two games.

The more likely possibility is a Europa League or Europa Conference League spot since Nice and Stade Rennais sits three and two points above them respectively. That means that for a fourth-place finish Strasbourg would need at least four points while hoping Nice loses once and draws/loses their second game. Goal difference will come into play then and Strasbourg have the advantage at +20 to +17.

However, a fifth-place finish is tougher as Stade Rennais (+40) has a superior goal-difference that will take a miracle to overcome. But should Rennais lose both their games (or even draws both), then Strasbourg have a chance at the Europa Conference League group stages if they win one (or win both) their games. Essentially, they’ll need to make up the two point gap and then better Rennais’ results.

For Lens (7th with 58 points) to finish in a Europa League place:

Two back-to-back draws in their last three games mean that Lens are out of the Champions League race but they could potentially still get Europa League football. However, for that to happen, they’ll need to win both their games to earn their maximum 64 points and hope that OGC Nice, Stade Rennais and RC Strasbourg all fall flat on their faces. Then they could finish fourth at the very best with one point separating them and Nice.

A fifth place finish is far more likely though as the gap is four points although overcoming Stade Rennais’ (+40) goal difference will be a tough ask thus five points would be the minimum. That effectively means beating both Troyes and AS Monaco in their final two games for a total of six points. Anything less than that and Lens will have to settle for a seventh place finish or even sixth, if things go their way, although that would give them no European football.

The La Liga’s battle for the European football:

Now Spain and it’s a rather lovely five-team battle.

However, unlike France, the La Liga’s method for a tie-breaker is that it goes H2H (head-to-head) results, then goal-difference and then goals scored. That doesn’t make things any easier especially when you’ve got five sides battling it out for four spots as seventh place also gets Conference League football after Real Betis won the Copa del Rey.

For Sevilla (4th with 66 points) to play Champions League football:

Their fall from grace this season has been stunning but even then, a mere point will be more than enough for Sevilla to guarantee fourth place and Champions League football but their final two games will see them place Atletico Madrid and Athletic Club. Both teams have things to play for (second place and Conference League football respectively) which makes it tougher but even then, a mere point for Julen Lopetegui’s side guarantees them Champions League football.

For Real Betis (5th with 61 points) to play Champions League football:

Real Betis © Twitter

A minor miracle is what it will take Real Betis to get Champions League football. Their Copa del Rey win means that they will play Europa League football next season regardless of where they finish in the league but in order to aim higher, they’ll need a miracle. Sevilla beat them in both games played this season which means the H2H is in their favour and thus Betis will need Sevilla to lose both their remaining games.

Not only that, they (Real Betis) will need to win games against Granada and Real Madrid, in order to get 67 points and the maximum they can earn. It will place them one point over Sevilla and thus earn that final Champions League spot. However, even a point for Julen Lopetegui’s men and Betis have to settle for Europa League football.

For Real Sociedad (6th with 59 points) to play Europa League football:

All they need to do is better Villarreal’s results and they’ll get Europa League football. That’s because of Real Betis’ Copa del Rey win, it means that 6th place gets Europa League football while 7th place will get Europa Conference League football. However, Sociedad plays Villarreal and Atletico Madrid in their final two games which means they get to decide their own future.

As it stands, just three points won’t be enough because of their poorer head-to-head record against Unai Emery’s side but should they beat Villarreal in their next game then that changes. It would turn the head-to-head record in Sociedad’s favour especially if they beat the Yellow Submarines by a margin greater than three goals or better than the 3-1 loss they suffered earlier in the season.

For Villarreal (7th with 56 points) to play Europa League football:

It’s literally the same thing as Real Sociedad because all Villarreal needs to do is better Sociedad’s results and much like them, Villarreal’s future is also in their hands. They face Sociedad and Barcelona in their final games which means a win over Sociedad and, at least, a draw over Xavi's team guarantees Europa League football for Unai Emery’s side.

Hell, win both games and they could, in the right circumstances, overtake Real Betis and take over their fifth-place spot. However, that would need Betis to either lose both their games or earn no more than a point because of Villarreal’s superior H2H record against the Copa del Rey winners.

For Athletic Club (8th with 62 points) to play Europa Conference League football:

A relatively tough run-in with Osasuna and Sevilla in their way but win both games and Athletic Club could play Europa Conference League football should Villarreal fall flat on their faces. However, that would need Unai Emery’s side to either lose both their remaining games or earn no more than two points. That’s because Athletic’s maximum is 58 points and thus if Villarreal earn the same, the H2H comes into play which means Marcelino’s side will leapfrog Unai Emery’s team into 7th.

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