Last season it was Real Zaragoza, Murcia and Levante. The season before that it was Celta de Vigo, Real Sociedad and Gimnastic de Tarragona. Who will it be this season? Who will suffer the heartbreak of relegation to the Segunda division?
Here’s the ladder as it stands before the kick-off of round 34:
Racing Santander is six points clear of the drop zone on 39, whilst Almeria and Athletic Bilbao are both on 40. Seeing as Real Zaragoza went down last season with 42 points, it will take an incredible dip in form for one of these teams to go down. That leaves seven teams in with a realistic chance of departing Spain’s top tier in just under a months time. Talk about tight.
Whose run home is best? Who has the quality to get the points they need to ensure survival? Who just aren’t good enough?
The first two rounds of the season aside, Numancia have struggled. It’s not all their fault though, after all, they do have one of the smallest budgets in the league. Their last win was five rounds ago against fellow strugglers Sporting de Gijon and they’ve been a permanent fixture in the relegation zone since round 22. They face Malaga this weekend, followed by Valladolid, Recre, Getafe and lastly Sevilla at home. They’re going to struggle.
Recreativo de Huelva
Recreativo haven’t won in two months. They have huge game against Osasuna this round, then Deportivo la Coruna, Numancia, Racing and finally Sporting away.
It’s a favourable draw for the team from Andalusia, with no matches against any of the top seven teams. If they do end up going down, they’ll know they just weren’t good enough.
They may have the same number of wins as ninth placed Mallorca, but it’s the draws column that is hurting Sporting. None all season. Quite remarkable. They’re on a run of six straight losses coming into this weekends game with Athletic Bilbao. They then have Almeria, Malaga, Valladolid and Recreativo at home. They’ll need a couple of draws as well as a couple of wins to stay up you would think.
Victor Munoz is gone and has been replaced by former Real Madrid and Spain midfielder Michel. He takes the reigns of a club that has just emerged from a torrid month, in which they lost three to Spain’s big four, including a heart-stopper at the Bernabeu.
They desperately need to regain some confidence. Angel Torres will be hoping that happens this week when his team are away at Mallorca. They have to face Osasuna, Deportivo, Numancia and Racing before the end of the campaign. Getafe have a decent squad and should be good enough to stay up. La Liga would be poorer without them.
That was all rather easy, wasn’t it? What an incredible revival. 14 points from a possible 15 in their last five matches and suddenly the team that had only won one of their previous 19 are out of the drop zone and breathing fresh air.
The big question is, can they stay out of trouble? Their run home is tougher than most – they entertain Champions League chasing Valencia this weekend, then they have Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Almeria and finally Malaga at home. It would have been beyond them a month ago, but things are very different now.
The boys from Pamplona have been hanging around the drop zone for most of the season. They’ve lost their last three and face Recreativo this weekend. They need a couple of wins in the next two weeks, because after playing Getafe next round, they finish with Sevilla, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Ouch. Good luck.
They may have the quality in their squad to stay up, but Betis have been woefully inconsistent this season. They host another inconsistent performer in Atletico Madrid this week, and then face Athletic Bilbao, Almeria, Malaga and Valladolid. I can’t see them going down…but I did say the same thing about Zaragoza last season.
The battle to avoid the dreaded drop is going to be riveting viewing and is sure to go down to the wire. For what it’s worth, I think Sporting de Gijon can do enough to survive, but Numancia, Recreativo de Huelva and an unlucky Osasuna will go down.
What do you think? Who will be departing the Primera Liga this season?