By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (May 31, 2023) US Soccer Players – This weekend brings the finales of the 2022-23 seasons for Europe’s other three major domestic leagues, Spain’s La Liga, France’s Ligue 1, and Italy’s Serie A. In Spain and France, the season culminates with games that will decide spots in next year’s European competitions and which clubs will be headed to the second division.
FC Barcelona locked up the Spanish title on May 14 with a 4-2 victory over city rival Espanyol, a result that pushed Espanyol to the brink of relegation. Espanyol confirmed the drop into the Segunda Division with a 2-2 draw against Valencia on Sunday, leaving one relegation place undecided.
The league’s Champions League places are spoken for as well. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid could swap their current places of second and third, but both will be playing in Europe’s top club competition next season regardless of what happens on the final day. Real Sociedad is five points up on Villarreal with a game to play and will fill out La Liga’s Champions League representation.
Barcelona’s last match of the season against Celta Vigo will play a role in the relegation fight with Celta Vigo currently occupying 17th-place heading into the final day. Celta Vigo, Luca de la Torre’s home in Liga, is one of five clubs still mathematically in danger of relegation with one match to play. Celta Vigo’s total of 40 points puts the seaside club in 17th position, but that’s just one point better than 18th-place Valladolid. Three teams, Cadiz, Getafe, and Valencia, have 41 points going into the 38th match, complicating the relegation picture. Almeria is in 16th, tied with Celta Vigo on 40 points.
Head-to-head results break ties in the standings in Spain. Celta Vigo’s final game is at home against Barcelona team. Celta Vigo’s record against its rivals for safety is poor, creating a scenario where only a win is likely to guarantee another year in the top division.
In his first year with the club, de la Torre collected 27 appearances and over 1,400 minutes going into the final game of the season. De la Torre began the year as a reserve, moving into the starting eleven in mid-January and staying there for most of the season’s second half. Playing as a defensive-minded pacesetter in a 4-4-2, de la Torre contributed two assists in league play during a run that saw Celta earn 19 of a possible 33 points from his first 11 starts.
Yunus Musah and Valencia will travel to Real Betis for a final-day clash. Musah has been one of the bright spots of Valencia’s season at just 20 years old. His 2,107 minutes going into the final game is fifth on the team among outfield players and he ranks the same fifth for starts.
Valencia is the third of the clubs sitting on 41 points but has the clearest path to avoiding relegation thanks to the set of matches scheduled for the final day. A win would guarantee a spot in next year’s La Liga field, as would a draw. If Valencia loses to Betis, it would take a series of specific results to send the club down.
The situation in France is similar to that of Spain, with the title-winning club (PSG), 2nd-place finisher (Lens), and 3rd-place side (Marseille) already confirmed. The top two clubs in Ligue 1 earn a spot in the Champions League group stage, while the 3rd-place finisher enters the competition in the third qualifying round.
What’s left to play for near the top of the table are places in the Europa League and the Conference League. Tim Weah’s Lille sits in fourth place and has the inside track on the Europa League spot for next season. A win away to already relegated Troyes on the final day would ensure qualification. American defender Eric Palmer-Brown appeared in every match to this point for Troyes in 2022-23, starting 35 of those 37 games.
Weah, meanwhile, has filled several roles throughout the season for the club he helped to a Ligue 1 title two seasons ago. An injury crisis at Lille moved Weah to wing back and fullback nearly 20 times in 28 league appearances. That versatility helped Lille navigate tricky parts of the schedule and put it in a position to finish in the top four in France. Lille is one point ahead of Rennes and Monaco.
Mid-table in France is Reims, home to newly committed USMNT forward Folarin Balogun. Balogun is tied for fourth in goals in Ligue 1 with 20 headed in the finale against Montpelier, a game that could see his club improve its place in the table from 11th to 10th if Lorient fails to win against Strasbourg.
Italy, too, completes its domestic season this weekend. Napoli won the title going away, while Lazio, Inter Milan, and AC Milan, where Sergino Dest is on-loan from Barcelona, will finish in some combination for second, third, and fourth pending results. Weston McKennie’s parent club Juventus enters the final round playing for a berth in the Europa League with a win against Udinese potentially pushing the club to fifth if Atalanta and Roma (parent club of Bryan Reynolds, who spent the season on-loan in Belgium with KRC Genk) fail to get maximum points.
Jason Davis is the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.
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Photo by Matthieu Mirville – ZUMA Press Wire – ISIPhotos.com