Let me start by pointing out that if we weren’t in the Europa League final, we would all be panicked about this game, because the entire season would be riding on it. Instead, we know we have a cup to play for in a few day and an even better shot at Champions League qualification in the process.
Clearly, winning the Europa League is our primary priority… I’ve been one of the few people insisting on focus on La Liga throughout the season, so let me make my final case for why this game is still HUGELY important. For starters, we should be ecstatic about our EL chances and further thrilled that we are facing a team, Dnipro, where many think we are the clear favorites. Fine. We couldn’t be in a better situation in that regard.
But ANYTHING can happen in a final. A flukey goal. Bad finishing luck. A shootout. Coke going all Coke and inexplicably conceding a red card penalty in the 5th minute. You just simply never know. Even as heavy favorites that still may only be a 65% chance of winning.
Meanwhile in La Liga, Valencia have a challenging match to close their season. Almeria have everything to play for. No need for maletas to sweeten the deal for them. A tie is useless for them to catch either Granada or Deportivo so the’ll be playing for all three against Valencia. If they get an early goal things could be very interesting. I’d say there is optimistically a 40% chance that Valencia don’t get all three points, and if that’s the case, then we’ll have a real shot at taking fourth.
Of course, that requires that we beat Malaga. And this game is going to be hard. Unfortunately, Malaga still have a lot to play for as well needing all three points for a chance to catch Bilbao and grab the final Europa League spot. We’ll undoubtedly have a battle on our hands as well.
The bottom line is that we would need both for Valencia to drop points and to win our match. We’ll have a heavily rotated squad, in anticipation of the EL final, so optimistically I give us about a 50% chance of winning and taking all three. Where does that leave us? I’d say roughly 20% chance of snagging 4th. Is that a lot? No. But its something, and it matters. In other years it would be the difference between success and failure. In this season, we have two real shots, the first one is tomorrow.