Valencia edged ahead of Real Sociedad in the race for Spain’s last available UEFA Champions League berth and Barcelona moved a step closer to equaling La Liga’s record points total in the penultimate round of matches on Sunday.
Valencia’s 1-0 victory at home to Granada lifted them above Sociedad into fourth place, two points clear of the Basque club, who drew 3-3 with second-placed Real Madrid in San Sebastian.
Champions Barca, missing the injured Lionel Messi, coasted to a 2-0 win at city rivals RCD Espanyol that put them on 97 points and victory on Saturday at home to Malaga would mean they equal Real Madrid’s record total of 100 points set last season.
Real’s draw at Sociedad means Barcelona are now 15 points ahead of their archrivals, three more than the biggest winning margin in La Liga history set by Barca in the 2005-2006 season.
Valencia’s bid to qualify for the Champions League foundered when they lost 4-2 at Sociedad at the end of last month, but four straight victories have put them back in pole position to secure fourth spot and a place in the qualifying round of Europe’s elite club competition.
Their final match is at ninth-placed Sevilla on Saturday, who have nothing to play for, while Sociedad are at relegation-threatened RC Deportivo de La Coruna.
“It was very important for us to get ahead of Sociedad, as it means we have our fate in our own hands,” Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde told a press conference. “The Sevilla match is going to be tough, as they are very strong at home.”
After the Espanyol players applauded their opponents onto the pitch before kickoff in recognition of their fourth La Liga title in five years, Alexis Sanchez fired the champions ahead in the 14th minute.
With several key players watching from the bench, Barca comfortably controlled the game, with Cesc Fabregas hitting the post before Pedro exchanged passes with fellow substitute Xavi to make it 2-0 four minutes from time.
At the other end of the table, a 3-1 defeat for 17th-placed Depor at Malaga means that all three teams in the relegation places — RC Celta de Vigo, Real Zaragoza and RCD Mallorca — still have a chance of avoiding the drop.
Celta won 2-0 at Real Valladolid, Zaragoza were thrashed 4-0 at Real Betis Balompie and Mallorca drew 0-0 at third-placed Atletico Madrid.
In other matches on Sunday, Athletic Bilbao played their last La Liga game at the storied San Mames before they move to a new stadium close by, losing 1-0 to Levante UD, Rayo Vallecano de Madrid won 2-1 at city rivals Getafe and CA Osasuna beat Sevilla 2-1.
Meanwhile in Malaga, coach Manuel Pellegrini, who said this week he was leaving at the end of the season and is expected to replace the sacked Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, was given a warm sendoff by the home fans at the Rosaleda.
The Chilean is hugely popular at the south coast club and led them to the Champions League quarter-finals this season, where they were narrowly beaten by Borussia Dortmund.
Additional reporting by staff writer