La Liga preview: Valencia in pursuit of Champions League
By Football News
Valencia will look to continue their 100 percent record at home versus Malaga in this decade as they strive for a UEFA Champions League spot.
After almost stealing victory away to Espanyol last week only to concede an equaliser with the final kick of the game in a 3-3 draw, Valencia will host Malaga on Saturday, desperate for victory to stay in touch with fourth-placed Real Sociedad.
Valencia, who are sixth in La Liga, are four points adrift of Sociedad, who occupy Spain's avenue into the qualifying playoffs of next season's Champions League.
While third position and an automatic berth in the 2013-14 Champions League seems a bridge too far for Valencia, the qualifying spot is definitely up for grabs, especially with fifth-placed Malaga ineligible for continental football next season.
That would mean that if Malaga finished fourth and Valencia claimed fifth at the end of the season, it would be the latter who would earn a spot in the Champions League qualifying process.
Valencia have won their past three matches when Malaga have visited the Estadio de Mestalla.
In fact, Malaga, who needed a stoppage-time winner from Julio Baptista to overcome Osasuna 1-0 last week, have not won at Valencia's home ground in the past 10 years.
If Valencia win again this weekend it will set Ernesto Valverde's side up nicely to take on Sociedad the week after in what could be a head-to-head battle for fourth position.
For that to happen, Sociedad would need to fail to win away to 15th-placed Osasuna on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Real Betis will face a tough trip to take on Real Madrid on Saturday as they attempt to stay in the hunt for fourth position.
Betis, who are two points behind Valencia and Malaga in seventh, drew 3-3 with local rivals Sevilla last week and probably need to become the first Spanish side in seven games to pick up points away to Real Madrid to stay in touch with their rivals for fourth.
La Liga leaders Barcelona will host Levante ahead of their Champions League semi-final first leg versus Bayern Munich, while third-placed Atletico Madrid will travel to Sevilla.
Mallorca and Rayo Vallecano will kick off the round's action on Friday, while Celta de Vigo and Real Zaragoza will play the final game on Monday.
In other La Liga fixtures, Granada will host Real Valladolid, Getafe are set to face Espanyol and Deportivo La Coruna will take on Athletic Bilbao.