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Just as one exhausting relegation battle comes to an end, another reaches its head-spinning conclusion.

The Premier League is over and Leicester City, Leeds United and Southampton have been put out of their misery. Over in Spain, however, an agonising final day awaits, with six teams still in with a chance of facing the drop on the final day. 

If you like a permutation, Sunday night’s Spanish football is the place for you.

Last weekend was a dress rehearsal for the chaos that awaits, with 10 games simultaneously shown on the multi-screen as La Liga’s bottom half battled it out for safety. A 93rd-minute equaliser for Valencia dealt a dramatic hammer blow to Espanyol, sending them down just days after they had come from 3-0 down to draw with Atletico Madrid. At last, their race is run.

Also down are Elche, 12 points adrift, but seemingly hell-bent on ruining everyone else’s campaign. After thrashing Rayo 4-0, beating Atletico Madrid and nicking a last-gasp winner at Athletic Bilbao, the bottom club could deal one more twist before the season is out.

This weekend, five games kick off at 9pm local time (8pm UK time), with six of the bottom eight teams all facing each other. Cadiz make the awkward trip to trouble-makers Elche, Almeria travel to Espanyol, while Real Valladolid host Getafe — all sides in serious trouble, or already down.

With all the dreaded permutations in mind, The Athletic takes a look at how La Liga’s final day is shaping up…

The six sides in trouble are all within two points of each other, so there’s a real possibility that multiple clubs end up level. 

In these instances, La Liga uses a head-to-head record system to denote positions, rather than goal difference as in the Premier League.

If more than two teams are level on points, then a head-to-head mini-league is formed. And yes, there is a chance that all of Cadiz, Valencia, Getafe, Almeria and Celta Vigo finish on 41 points, in which a five-team mini-league would form. Plenty of quadruple and triple head-to-heads could also form — all with different results from the last. 

One thing is for sure, the live-table operators will have their work cut out on Sunday night.

Taking all of this into account, FiveThirtyEight’s projected league table (above) provides a snapshot of the scene. Using their team strength model to predict the outcome of each of the remaining games before simulating the season 20,000 times, the forecasted standings give each of the six teams a percentage probability of survival. 

Real Valladolid (at home to Getafe)

Let’s start with the relatively simple case of Real Valladolid, who would seal their safety with a win over fellow strugglers Getafe.

A defeat would condemn them to relegation, while a draw would bring them up to 40 points, where they could potentially sit level with Almeria and Celta Vigo, should they both lose too. 

In that scenario, a three-team, head-to-head table would determine the relegated side. Having beaten both sides this season, Valladolid would be safe.

So, Paulo Pezzolano’s side are safe with a win, a draw would keep them up only if Almeria also lost, while a defeat would send them down. Facing a team just two points above them, the Estadio Jose Zorrilla is probably the place to be this Sunday.

Celta Vigo (at home to Barcelona)

One place up, Celta Vigo’s alarming free fall sees them in real danger of an unprecedented collapse. Having lost seven of their last nine games, after just two defeats from their previous 16, the Galician side will need to beat Barcelona if they want to avoid any complications on the final day, while a draw opens up a whole new can of worms. 

A single point would be enough if Valladolid fail to win. Straightforward enough.

If Valladolid beat Getafe, however, multiple head-to-head leagues could open up, depending on which other teams also end the day on 41 points. 

Unfortunately for Celta, though, they have poor records against their relegation rivals: one point against Almeria and Getafe, and none against Valencia. The only team that they trump on the head-to-head is Cadiz, a 3-0 win in September giving them the upper hand on goal difference.

So, win and Celta stay up. Draw, and they will be safe unless Valladolid win — in which case, their head-to-head would send them down.

If Celta lose and Valladolid win, Celta are relegated. 

If Celta lose and Valladolid draw they go to a head to head… which is dead level. Celta’s goal difference then comes into play, which is better, so they would stay up.

If Celta lose and Valladolid lose, Celta stay up.

Almeria (away to Espanyol)

Next up, Almeria, who squandered a golden opportunity to confirm their own safety last weekend. Taking on Valladolid at the Power Horse Stadium, where they have picked up 33 of their 40 points this season, a frustrating 0-0 draw left Rubi’s side in limbo heading into the final day. 

They now travel to Espanyol, who were relegated last weekend. They need a rare away win if they are to confirm their safety. 

A draw would make things complicated, but Almeria will still stay up on the head-to-heads. Even in the incredible situation that five teams finish level on 41 points, their strong record against relegation candidates will steer them clear of the drop. 

Taste defeat at Espanyol, and Almeria will only go down if both Valladolid and Celta Vigo pick up points. They have a better head-to-head than Celta, but not Valladolid — who beat them back in September with a 93rd-minute goal, and held on to that draw last weekend. 

They have the worst away record in La Liga — even worse than Elche. Now would be the time to add to their seven-point away haul.

Getafe (Real Valladolid v Getafe)

Now, up to the slightly safer sides, starting with Getafe. Their mouthwatering trip to Valladolid is as dramatic as they come, with both sides desperate not to lose. 

Los Azulones are usually poor away from home, but a dramatic win at Real Betis last weekend — their first on the road in La Liga since October — has given Jose Bordalas’s side hope of sealing their great escape.

Any points for Getafe, and they are safe. If they lose, then we have some more head-to-head headaches to sort out. 

Without going through every possible head-to-head mini-league, Getafe would go down in direct duels with Almeria, Valencia and Cadiz. So, if they lose, and finish level with any of those teams and those teams only, they would be relegated. If Celta also finished on 41 points, they would go down instead. 

Prepare for some last-minute calculations; the La Liga table is at the mercy of this game.

Cadiz (away to Elche) and Valencia (away to Real Betis)

Like Getafe, both Cadiz and Valencia just need a singular point to survive. 

The Andalusian club would be relegated only if they lose and Celta, Almeria and Valladolid all win, and Valencia pick up at least a point. In that dramatic scenario, they would be level with Getafe on head-to-head, but go down on goal difference, which is 12 worse than the Madrid side’s.

Travelling away to Elche on their La Liga farewell — who have just one defeat in their last six — things could get complicated for Cadiz, but they should be OK. 

Similarly, Valencia would only go down with an unthinkable twist. After a 93rd-minute equaliser salvaged a point last weekend, they would only be relegated in the case of a triple or quadruple head-to-head with all teams but Celta Vigo, who they have beaten twice. 

If they can spoil Joaquin’s final La Liga game, Valencia live to fight another day.

Few league seasons have ever seen a conclusion quite like it — make sure to come back on Sunday night for our review of the action.

Whatever happens, from a neutral perspective, it will be thrilling to watch.

(Top photo: Ivan Terron/Europa Press via Getty Images, Octavio Passos/Getty Images, Angel Martinez/Getty Images)



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