Xavi Hernandez given a hero’s send-off at Camp Nou, while Champions League and relegation races thrill to the end on La Liga’s final matchday.
With the Liga title already wrapped up, Barcelona welcomed Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday. Needing a result to evade relegation, Depor showed their true grit by managing a come-from-behind draw. Barca’s two early goals from Lionel Messi were washed out by late strikes from Lucas and Diogo Salomao. The spoil-share gave the Brancoazuis the point they needed to finish in 16th place and avoid the drop. But this game was as much about reflection as it was looking forward.
Now that our eyes have dried, it’s time to recollect ourselves. And that’s not just a call to Barcelona fans, but soccer fans in general. As Xavi Hernandez fought back tears to give a farewell message to the Camp Nou faithful after Barca’s 2-2 draw with Deportivo on Saturday — the final La Liga match of his career — the entire global football collective shared a nice cry. Next year, the 35-year-old will be taking his talents to Qatari club Al Sadd on a three-year-deal.
Xavi was a player who redefined how the game was played, whilst also managing to win everything under the sun with Barcelona and Spain. He’s fronted a generation of Spanish football that has been equally unrivaled as his playmaking abilities. The soccer gods will spend the coming weeks weeping for him, as he attempts to end his Barca career with another European treble. His final final match will take place on June 6th in Berlin when the Blaugrana take on Juventus in the Champions League final.
Champs League Race
It was perhaps fitting that this season’s La Liga Champions League race hinged on the efforts of a Sevilla side that will be vying for a second straight Europa League crown this coming Wednesday. The task of making that jump from EL stalwart to CL contender was perfectly illustrated in the La Liga table. Winning the EL is one thing; maintaining the type of consistent league form that sees you qualify for the CL is another. Such was Sevilla’s charge.
They took the term “bang for your buck” to new levels, however, the Rojiblancos ultimately failed in their quest to ascend elite Euro football’s totem pole, though not by their own doing. Their 3-2 win against Malaga would’ve been enough had one other result gone their way. And although the circumstantial tension taunted us all for 90 minutes, that other result did not cooperate.
In a topsy-turvy encounter, Valencia came from behind to defeat — and relegate — Almeria by a score of 3-2. An opening goal from Thomas Partey was canceled out by Nicolas Otamendi. Almeria then took a lead through Fernando Soriano, before Sofiane Feghouli and Paco Alcacer put Los Che ahead in the second half. Despite Dani Parejo being sent-off in the 89th Valencia held onto the lead, taking all three points and securing a place in next season’s CL.
Not all is lost for Sevilla, however. New UEFA rules have allowed the winner of this year’s Europa League to qualify for next year’s CL. Being the heavy favorites over Ukraine’s Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Unai Emery’s side could very well sneak in the back door at the last minute.
After months of circling the drain, La Liga’s bottom-feeders have succumbed to the suck of relegation. With Cordoba already down, it came down to the final matchday to find out which poor souls would be joining them. It was between Granada, Deportivo La Coruna, Eibar, and Almeria.
With two points in hand, both Granada and Deportivo drew aces on the final day, against rather tumultuous odds. Granada drew with then-reigning champions Atletico Madrid in a 0-0 stalemate, while Depor came from behind to draw 2-2 against newly-crowned champions Barcelona at Camp Nou. A single point for each team was enough to ensure survival, although it didn’t exactly look that way early on.
Eibar sent early shockwaves through the Liga when they went up three goals against Cordoba by minute 34. The preseason underdogs seemed destined to put a ribbon on their unlikeliest of seasons. However, when Deportivo equalized at Barca, the Armeros’ hopes began fleeting away. As the scoreline at Camp Nou held, Eibar’s luck crumpled, ending with their relegation from La Liga.
Equally disappointing, Almeria’s hard fought display against Valencia, who had a Champions League berth to play for, bore no fruit. As Thomas Partey, and then Fernando Soriano, put the Indalicos up twice, a miraculous escape certainly felt possible. However, the gritty fortitude of Los Che won out in the end, as Almeria first forfeited their lead and then all three points. They’ll be joining Eibar next season in the Segunda. That’s life in the top-flight.