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Shipped from abroad, Spain: Where we’re not supposed to care about the other 18 clubs

Apr 23, 2012, 9:29 PM EDT

Malaga's midfielder Santiago Cazorla (L)

Remarkably, Spain’s season will continue enough though there are no more Clasicos, the title race is all but decided, and the final four match days of the season will give us more glimpses of Real Madrid and Barcelona prospects than we wanted. Where the world has shown no particular interest in Spain beyond its top two teams, don’t expect to hear much about the Primera until next season.

In the anonymity of neglect, the fight for the last Champions League spots will play out. Valencia, on the back of two wins in their last three, have reclaimed third place from Málaga ahead of the teams’ meeting this Sunday . Three points behind Los Che, Málaga need to not only win, they need to reverse the 2-0 loss they suffered earlier this year at the Mestalla (Spain’s first tiebreaker is head-to-head results).

It may not even matter. After hosting Valencia, Málaga are on the road to face Barcelona then Atlético. Only three points ahead of a fading fifth-place Levante, Málaga may need to keep one eye on a pack that sees Athletic Bilbao and Atlético only four back.

That’s why Monday’s draw at Osasuna was so disappointing. Down 1-0 after Nino’s early second half goal, Málaga got an equalizer from the best player not on the big two – Santi Cazorla – but couldn’t find a winner. With only two points over their last three games, Málaga’s given the pole position to Valencia, who close the season with Osasuna, Villarreal, and Real Sociedad.

Málaga have always plotted a patient course on their road to becoming a power, but having come this close to Champions League qualification, being forced to settle for Europa could lead to a bitter summer.

Elsewhere in Spain

All results
Mallorca 1-0 Real Zaragoza
Sporting Gijón 2-1 Rayo Vallecano
Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
Sevilla 1-1 Levante
Granada 1-0 Getafe
Real Sociedad 1-1 Villarreal
Racing Santander 0-1 Athletic Bilbao
Atlético Madrid 3-1 Espanyol
Valencia 4-0 Real Betis
Osasuna 1-1 Málaga

Races

Champions League: Real Madrid (88 points/34 games played), Barcelona (81/34), Valencia (55/34), Málaga (52/34)

Europa League: Levante (49/34), Athletic Bilbao (48/34), Atlético Madrid (48/34)

Stuff that stuck out:

  • It’s not just the press and fans outside of Spain that are dwelling on Real Madrid and Barcelona. Monday’s coverage was dominated with the aftermath of Saturday’s result. Add in the sprinkling of foresight toward mid-week Champions League matches and there’s little room for anything besides Cazorla’s equalizer.
  • Probably deserving more attention is Giuseppe Rossi, who is projected to miss 10 more months recovering from more procedures on his injured knee. According to Dr. richard Steadman, the Italian international actually needs two operations, with recovery times of four and six months. Rossi had originally hoped to be back early next season, but having gone under the knife on Saturday, the Villarreal star will now have to target February 2013.
  • Athletic Club continued to pull their way to the edge of Champions League qualification, but it wasn’t pretty. While they nearly passed Racing into submission, they needed a strong day from Gorka Iraizoz in goal to get three from a side destined to drop.
  • For much of 2012, Radamel Falcao has had to carry Diego Simeone’s club back into La Liga relevance. On Sunday, however, the hero was Arda Turan. The Turkish winger came with high expectations from Galatasaray in the summer, but until Espanyol’s visit, he’d managed only one league goal. The number tripled as Turan found a second half double, his team earning a win that kept them above Spain’s mid-table maelstrom.
  • One team that is no longer opening thinking about Europe is Sevilla, even though sitting on 46 points, they still have a chance. But it’s been a miserable year in Seville, and having seen only one point from their last two matches (after putting themselves in a position to dream of competing for third), the club has returned to one step at a time mode. Sitting ninth, they need only move up two spots to have a chance to make Europa. Unfortunately, that means displacing Athletic or Atlético.
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