By Rik Sharma
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Valencia won 2-0 at Real Valladolid on Saturday to finish fourth in La Liga and seal qualification for next year’s Champions League, while Girona were relegated after a 2-1 defeat at Alaves.
Here are five talking points from the final weekend of the La Liga season.
La Liga champions Barcelona saw out the season with a 2-2 draw at Eibar on Sunday, while Real Madrid, third, lost 2-0 at home against Real Betis.
The points difference between Spain’s two biggest clubs ended up being an unprecedented 19.
While Barcelona’s eight league titles in the last 11 seasons have made their domestic dominance clear, this new low for Real illustrates the scope of the rebuilding job coach Zinedine Zidane has on his hands.
Welsh winger Gareth Bale is one of several Madrid players who may have played their last match for the club.
The record signing was not even given a chance to say goodbye to supporters by Zidane on Sunday, with the Frenchman leaving Bale on the bench during the defeat by Real Betis.
Bale has played an integral role in four Champions League triumphs since he signed in 2013 but it seems his time in the Spanish capital looks like ending on a low note.
“I didn’t let him play today, it’s true, but we don’t know what will happen,” said an unsentimental Zidane.
“We aren’t living in the past, this is the present and that is what I base my decisions on.”
Quique Setien’s Betis became the first side to win at the Nou Camp and the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga in the same season since Mallorca in the 2002-03 campaign.
It was not enough to keep him in the job, though, and on Sunday coach and club agreed to part ways by mutual consent.
Under his guidance, the Seville club were noted for their attacking style and swagger but also for their weak defence and wild inconsistency.
Setien, who took the club back to Europe last season, paid the price for a disappointing 10th place finish but also felt Spain’s north-south divide played a part in his downfall.
“It is clear that the passion of Betis fans doesn’t really click with a guy from the north like me, who prefers to explain things with common sense,” he said. “There was a misunderstanding, above and beyond football.”
Valencia have charged up the table in the second half of the season and secured their place in the Champions League for next season by easing past Valladolid at Estadio Nuevo Jose Zorrilla.
The run of form has charged Marcelino’s side with confidence and they will be looking to put it to good use in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona on May 25.
“(Finishing fourth) is fundamental for the cup final, hitting this objective liberates us and let’s see if we can end the season with a win and a trophy,” said Los Che striker Rodrigo Moreno.
While Girona’s defeat by Alaves condemned them to relegation, Iago Aspas’s two late goals earned their rivals for the drop Celta Vigo a 2-2 draw at Rayo Vallecano which would have kept them up anyway.
The talismanic striker has almost single-handedly kept Celta in the top flight, winning the Zarra Trophy as the top Spanish goalscorer in La Liga for the third year running in the process.
Aspas’s double took him to 20 for the season, just one goal behind Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.
Nobody got close to Lionel Messi, whose double for Barcelona against Eibar moved him to 36, easily enough to win his sixth top scorer award, a joint record with Athletic Bilbao great Telmo Zarra.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)