Despite both teams having nothing to play for, it is sure to be an emotional occasion when Barcelona host Malaga on the final day of the Spanish Primera Division season. The home side and the Camp Nou fans will get a chance to bid farewell to Eric Abidal after it was confirmed in the past week that his contract will not be renewed.
The French defender, as good as he was on the pitch for the club, came to become a source of inspiration after fighting back from a liver tumor and a liver transplant to return to first-team action in recent weeks. Following the match, there will be a fitting sendoff for the 33-year-old with a guard of honor from his teammates to bring to an end his glory-laden time with the club. Abidal, though, has insisted that it won’t be a permanent farewell.
“I have played here for six years, and it’s been the biggest experience of my life,” he said at a press conference on Thursday. “I had two aims -- to fight to be able to see my two daughters grow up and to play again. I’d have loved to have stayed here but I have to accept the club’s decision. I’m leaving but I’ll definitely be back. Thank you for the gesture.”
Emotions will also be running high for Malaga. The club, which will be in the Europa League next season if their appeal against a continental ban is successful, will wave goodbye to coach Manuel Pellegrini. In their first Champions League campaign, the Chilean led Malaga on an extraordinary run to the brink of the semifinals and has been a hugely important and stabilizing figure during the financial turmoil the club has gone through in the past year.
But Pellegrini has now decided, understandably, to chase glory elsewhere, with Manchester City expected to be his next destination. There remains strong speculation too that Malaga’s young star Isco will also leave with rumors that he could follow Pellegrini to City.
D: Adriano, Pique, Mascherano, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Thiago
F: Sanchez, Fabregas, Tello
D: Gamez, Demichelis, Weligton, Eliseu
M: Iturra, Toulalan
Joaquin, Baptista, Isco
Prediction: With the pressure off and plenty of attacking talent on show there could be a few goals to entertain on the final day of the season. Malaga’s players will likely to be eager to give Pellegrini a fitting sendoff, while Barcelona will want to end the season on a high. Tito Vilanova’s side have failed to win just once at home in La Liga all season and they should ensure that their impressive record remains intact as the seek to match Real Madrid's record points tally.
Barcelona 4-2 Malaga
Where to watch: The Liga match will kick-off at 1 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.