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La Liga: Fading Chances and Relegation Woes

As one of the best leagues in world football, La Liga has produced some of the finest teams in Europe, big achievers with phenomenal players.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have 18 Champions League/European Cup titles between them and have been blessed by the stratospheric playing skills of Kaka, Zinedine Zidane, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo in recent years. And currently the great Lionel Messi  is La Liga’s main man, if not the best player of all time.

But for every over-achiever there’s a disappointed team in any league, with the majority performing much as they expected. This season fifth-placed Getafe are the surprise package and that means one or two teams may miss out on a European slot, which they probably expected to pick up.

 

Two clubs with dwindling hopes

Valencia 7th

One such team is Valencia, currently occupying a borderline Europa League slot, having finished fourth last term. You could argue that Atletico Madrid, currently sixth, have had an equally underwhelming league campaign, but Los Rojiblancos are redeeming themselves in the Champions League. While Valencia were dumped out of the Round of 16 by Atalanta, Diego Simeone’s Atleti stunned reigning champions Liverpool with a spectacular comeback at Anfield.

Valencia head coach Albert Celades guided his team to the brink of the top four, but after a patchy run they have drifted out of Champions League contention.

The fans at the Mestalla are a demanding bunch and they thought the glory days were on the way back when they took their place in the Champions League this season. They have the firepower to match that achievement, with nine-goal Maxi Gomez alongside Kevin Gameiro and Dani Parejo, but look likely to fall short. And if they don’t qualify for Europe’s premier competition again they could lose midfielder Carlos Soler in the summer transfer window, with Arsenal set to swoop for the 23-year-old.

 

Villarreal 8th

It’s a case of what might have been for the Yellow Submarine, which too is falling away after a positive campaign which lasted well into the New Year. Three defeats on the run, including a home loss to struggling Leganes last time out, have probably taken Javier Calleja’s team out of contention for a European place.

After a real struggle in the 2018/19 season, when a battling finish pulled Villarreal away from relegation, this campaign has been much more comfortable. But the Yellow Submarine has graced the Champions League and Europa League for five of the past six seasons thanks to top six finishes in La Liga. This might look like a lost opportunity, especially with the quality of Paco Alcacer and ruthlessness of 11 goal Gerard Moreno upfront.

 

Three teams in the relegation mire

Espanyol 20th

Few of us predicted Espanyol would be rooted at the bottom of the La Liga table at this stage of the season, but the Los Periquitos are in mortal danger, six points from safety and, with the resumption of play some way away, these are very nervous times in this part of Barcelona.

Espanyol have only won once in their last 5 games and 4 wins overall this La Liga season
Espanyol’s Diego Lopez celebrates with Leandro Cabrera as Atletico Madrid’s Stefan Savic scores an own goal

Espanyol finished seventh last year and that brought a return to the Europa League for the first time since 2007, but European competition seems to have been a curse to Los Periquitos.

 

Leganes 19th

The latest La Liga 2020 prediction sees Madrid minnows fall through the trapdoor along with Espanyol, which would be tough to take for a side which has worked hard to stay in the top flight.

Los Pepineros are the tiny neighbours of Atleti and Real Madrid, playing in a 12,000 capacity stadium, and they reached the Primera Division for the first time in their history in 2016, and after two 17th placed finishes they climbed to 13th last term.

This season has been the biggest struggle so far for Leganes, but they are showing some real fight again, and have earned two big wins recently, against Real Sociedad and latterly Villarreal when Oscar, on loan from Real Madrid, scored a brace. The 21 year old striker gives Leganes some hope.

 

Celta Vigo 17th

Fans in Vigo didn’t expect Celta to go down this term but they are in serious danger, in 17th place and just a single point ahead of Real Mallorca, and only three ahead of Leganes.

Until last season the 2017 Europa League semi-finalists have been comfortably mid table or above since the 2013/2014 campaign.

Los Celestes have relied heavily on striker Iago Aspas in recent seasons, and he has bagged nine this term, but alongside Russian forward Fyodor Smolov he has struggled to ignite Celta Vigo’s campaign.

I have a feeling that at least one of Vigo and Leganes will survive, and quite possibly both, and don’t forget, you can keep up with all the latest La Liga 2020 news and updates right here at SBOTOP to see if I’m right.

 

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