The final matchday has arrived! Oh, the drama and suspense, right? Well, sort of. Because while Saturday’s outcomes could well determine Sevilla’s European fate for next season, we won’t know that until June 4th at the earliest, and realistically probably not for some time after that, because the club elected not to earn a spot for Europe on the field this season, and instead decided to see if the courts would just scoot them in via the back door. To bring you quickly up to speed, this is the European situation right now:
- First off, since the Copa del Rey winner (Atletico) will play in Champions League next year, 7th place in La Liga goes to Europa in addition to 5th and 6th.
- Either Valencia or Real Sociedad (4th and 5th respectively) will play in Champions League next year, the other in Europa. It all depends on the results of their final games (and only on their results—they are one of those teams that just wins enough games to qualify for Europe).
- Malaga, currently in 6th place, has been banned for Europe for next season, pending a ruling on an appeal to the TAS courts, which will be handed down June 4th. Presumably there will be some further legal maneuvering from whoever loses something because of that ruling. If the ruling stands as is, that would mean that 5th, 7th, and 8th qualify for Europe.
- Real Betis, in 7th place with 55 points, has already secured play in Europa. Their opponent, Levante, could theoretically still end up in a European place. That’s because…
- Rayo Vallecano, currently in 8th place with 52 points, was denied a license for European play, meaning that even if they qualify they won’t be able to compete. So the European spot which usually goes to the Copa champion is passed on to Malaga who is not eligible, and is in turn passed on to 8th place Rayo who is also not eligible, meaning that an European, allegedly elite competition place has fallen all the way to the middle of table, to 9th place, where…
- Sevilla currently sits, tied on points with Getafe but ultimately ahead because of the head-to-head tie-breaker. If the season ended today, and all current rulings from various legal sporting bodies held, Sevilla would qualify for Europa. But of course the season does not end until tomorrow, and we have enough possible scenarios that maybe we need another series of bullet points.
Here’s how things could end up tomorrow and in the post-season legal battles (sports, am I right?) as far as Sevilla and Europe goes, in roughly best to worst case. I’ve bolded the bottom-line type things to hopefully make this all make slightly more sense. Here goes:
- First, though, let me just stick in a quick word about the teams near Sevilla. There are 5 teams that could end up with enough points to be in 9th place: Sevilla (47 points), Getafe (47), Levante (45), Espanyol (44), and Athletic Bilbao (44). Sevilla owns tie-breaks with Getafe, Espanyol (head-to-head), and Athletic Bilbao (goal differential). That leaves Levante, who have the better head-to-head. This means a Sevilla-Valencia draw combined with Levante victory over Betis, which would leave the clubs tied with 48 points, would see Levante finish ahead of Sevilla.
- Sevilla wins against Valencia. The Valencia that needs a win in order to ensure that they play in the Champions League. The Valencia that has been consistently very good all year. Still, though, this is by far the simplest outcome: win on Saturday, and Sevilla is in Europe*.
- Next-best scenario would be a Sevilla draw or loss combined with other results (see below) that mean that Sevilla stays in 9th place. Look, I’ll boil this down: if Sevilla stays in 9th, they go to Europe* . Sevilla could lose and as long as Getafe and Levante lose and tie respectively, they’re in. (Probably this would be the most fitting way to end up in Europe for Sevilla’s season of shit.) As mentioned above, if Sevilla draws, Getafe has to lose and Levante has to lose or draw. Espanyol and Bilbao’s results don’t matter. If they lose, Getafe and Levante have to both lose.
- * So…about those asterisks. There’s always the chance that the TAS court overturns Malaga’s ban, or Rayo gets their UEFA license this summer…either of those things happen, and Sevilla is out of Europe. It’s important to reiterate here that the absolute most that Sevilla can do about those things at this point is win and end up in 9th place. They can’t finish above Rayo, so they’ll have to put their faith in paperwork. There is no scenario that bypasses the TAS hearing.
- After that, we have a series of other crappy ways that the team could fail to make Europe by not ending in 9th place. Sevilla could tie or lose and Betis could do Levante a favor while also screwing us over by letting Levante win. Getafe could walk over already-safe-from-relegation Granada.
- Finally, I guess we have the total worst-case ending, wherein we beat Valencia, thereby allowing Real Sociedad to qualify for Champions League. Malaga convinces TAS to overturn their ban, so they get to play in Europa. Unai, frustrated by losing out on Europe in court, finally gives in to the call of his hometown team and agrees to take over for Sociedad in the Champions League season. Sevilla is left as a coachless, mid-table team about to sell two or three of its biggest superstars. Yeah, that’s the darkest timeline.
So all of that to say, Sevilla needs to end up in 9th place for the court rulings to matter. They can do that by winning, or with a draw or even a loss combined with other results. But finishing in 9th place only matters if all current official rulings don’t change. The games that impact Sevilla are Granada v Getafe, Levante v Real Betis, and of course Sevilla v Valencia.
Phew, congratulations, you made it to the end. Now that you’re so well informed, what do you think will happen? Let’s hear some predictions!