Ten things to look out for on the final weekend of European football
For fans of the major European football leagues, this weekend spells the last instalment of the 2015/16 season before the Euros step in to relieve the boredom in June. So what's still to play for this season? Which titles are yet to be claimed, relegation spots to be avoided and water cooler discussion points left to mull over? Glory investigates...
1. The La Liga title race
Barcelona's stuttering domestic form has meant that the La Liga title race is now wide open. Atletico Madrid shot themselves in the foot with a defeat at the weekend, meaning that it's now a two-horse race between Barca and Real Madrid. An away win at Granada for Luis Enrique's team will sew up the title, but any other result leaves the door open for Zidane's Merengues. It promises to be a nail-biting weekend for Spain's biggest clubs.
2. The Premier League golden boot
How Jamie Vardy might come to rue that skied second penalty against Everton last weekend. Having narrowly missed out on the PFA Player of the Year award to teammate Riyad Mahrez, Vardy is now a goal behind Spurs' Harry Kane in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot – level on 24 goals with Man City's Sergio Agüero. The battle to be named England's sharpest shooter will be one of the most compelling as the Premier League season draws to a close.
3. The race for Europe in Ligue 1...
Engrossing narratives have been thin on the ground in France this year, with PSG sweeping all before them en route to an inevitable domestic title. However, the battle for a final Champions League spot is set to go down to the wire, with megabucks Monaco and Hatem Ben Arfa-inspired (you read that right Newcastle fans) Nice deciding matters on the final day. Lyon did Nice a big favour with a thumping 6-1 win over Monaco last weekend, but Les Aiglons are away from home in their final game of the season and need Monaco to drop points if they are to earn a ticket to Europe's premier cup competition.
4. ...And the Bundesliga
Germany's top three are over the hill and far away with one game to play, and Borussia Monchengladbach's vastly superior goal difference means that the final Champions League spot is all but theirs. The battle for Europa League football is wide open though, with three clubs on 49 points going into the final weekend of the season. 5th placed Mainz and 6th placed Hertha Berlin play one another on the final day, meaning a win for 7th placed Schalke will guarantee them European football for another year. But does anyone really want it?
5. Italy's end of an era
Fans of Italian football will be sad to wave goodbye to two of the game's greats this summer, with Luca Toni announcing his retirement and Antonio Di Natale revealing that he'll be leaving Udinese for destinations unknown after 12 years of superlative service. With Francesco Totti's career in the balance at Roma, it may well be time to wave goodbye to this prolific generation of geriatric Italian strikers. We'll miss them, but not as much as the Italian national setup already does.
6. Luis Suarez in line for the Ballon D'Or?
For years the Ballon D'Or conversation has been about two men: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. If Suarez can inspire Barcelona to victory in their final game of the season, however, then he must be favourite for the next award. Barca's no.9 is leagues ahead in the fight for the European Golden Shoe, tops the La Liga charts for both goals and assists and has to be the most complete out-and-out striker on the planet right now. With a European Championship taking place in the summer, however, South Americans like Suarez could be undone by a quirk of timing. If so, he'll be deeply unfortunate to be overlooked.
7. Spurs vs Arsenal
By the time the final weekend of the season rolls around the Premier League relegation conversation may well be moot. Sunderland kick off against Everton in midweek knowing that a victory against Roberto Martinez's underachieving Toffees will guarantee top flight football next year. Any other result, however, leaves Newcastle and maybe even Norwich in with a shout. All of which may have a major bearing on the Spurs vs Arsenal rivalry. Tottenham must travel to Newcastle on the final day, who will either be fighting for their lives or resigned to a spell in the Championship with little to play for. Arsenal, meanwhile, host already relegated Aston Villa – knowing that they need their North London rivals to lose to avoid finishing behind them for the first time in 21 years.
8. Something to play for in Portugal
La Liga isn't the only major European league with the title race to be decided on the final day of the season. Benfica lead Sporting by two points in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, and boast one of Europe's most in-form strikers in veteran Brazilian Jonas. They've won 11 league games on the bounce and have such a superior goal difference that a draw should be enough, but slip up away at Nacional and the title could be Sporting's.
9. Pep in the Europa League
Pep Guardiola won't have wanted his Bayern Munich experiment to end with a third consecutive European semi-final defeat at the hands of Spanish opposition, but he'll be able to console himself with another domestic title to add to his burgeoning collection. The proverbial turd in the punchbowl, however, is that his new club may not provide him with the opportunity to redress the Champions League balance next term. Manchester City are perilously close to slipping into the Europa League positions, and wins for United in their last two games will relegate the incoming City manager to a season in Europe's secondary cup competition. How the red half of Manchester would love that.
10. A surprise package from the Championship?
While the 2015/16 season will rightly be remembered for Leicester City's incredible title win, it's also been a season of consolidation for other recently promoted clubs. Watford and (in particular) Bournemouth have shown that the step up from the Championship perhaps isn't as daunting as it seems, while Southampton, Swansea and of course Leicester have built on good work in previous seasons to consolidate their positions in the top flight. The Championship play-offs begin on Friday, and while the four clubs involved may not give many Premier League managers sleepless nights, they all have the potential to surprise a few should they come up.
– Louis Rossi