Boss Quique Setien under pressure at Real Betis

Real Betis

Real Betis have endured a miserable start to 2019. It is only the start of March but they have already been eliminated from the Copa del Rey and Europa League while they have slipped to seventh in La Liga.

The Seville-based club have won just four of their last 18 matches in all competitions and they have triumphed just once in their last eight attempts. The concern goes beyond the results, with their style of play being criticised for its dogmatism and dryness. They are too easy to combat and lack variation. Continue reading

Underdogs Getafe on course for Champions League finish

Getafe

Forget Barcelona being top of the league or the order of this season’s top three. Getafe are the current story of the season in La Liga – sitting fourth in the division and on course for a first ever appearance in the Champions League next season.

There are still 12 matches remaining, almost a third of the campaign, but as things stand, there will be three sides from the Spanish capital in Europe’s premier club competition for 2019/20. This would be a remarkable achievement on so many levels, with Getafe renowned as a club with a limited fanbase and with one of the league’s lowest budgets. Continue reading

Alvaro Morata recovers smile at Atletico Madrid

Alvaro Morata

Perhaps the most significant move in Europe’s January transfer window was the 18-month loan deal which brought Alvaro Morata back to the Spanish capital. The 26-year-old has made an instant impact at Atletico de Madrid and is now playing with a smile on his face once more, having endured an unhappy stint in London with Chelsea.

The Spain international hit a respectable 24 goals across a season-and-a-half at Stamford Bridge but never fully convinced, with fitness issues and personal problems seeing him struggle to adapt to life abroad. But now he has returned to the club where it all started for him and is showing signs of rejuvenation. Continue reading

Unstable Celta Vigo prepare for relegation battle

Celta Atletico

It was only 22 months ago that Celta de Vigo stood on the cusp of reaching the Europa League final. They had lost the first leg of their semi-final 1-0 against Manchester United but were level 1-1 at the Old Trafford return the following week. In the dying moments, the ball came into the box and John Guidetti had a glorious chance to score, which he spurned.

Having been one kick from a memorable European decider, things have gone from bad to worse for Celta in the time since. An underwhelming 13th-placed finish last season has been followed by a traumatic campaign in which they are flirting with relegation. Continue reading

La Liga remains most competitive European top flight

getafe huesca

Few divisions in top-flight European football are quite as competitive as Spain’s La Liga has been this season. Only 20 points separate fourth-placed Getafe – on course for Champions League qualification – with Huesca, who are bottom of the table. By contrast, in England’s Premier League, 19 points separate 4th to 9th, and 44 between 4th and 20th.

There is a perception, which mainly exists in the United Kingdom, that Barcelona and Real Madrid have it easy in Spain’s top flight. The opposition aren’t up to much. It is boring and lacks proper competitiveness. There are too many easy games. One measurement to counter that is that Madrid’s current points projection, based on 48 points from 26 games, is worse than each of the current top six in England. Continue reading

Fatigued Sevilla faltering in testing season

Sevilla agony

When Sevilla travelled to Barcelona at the tail end of October, they led the Spanish league table after eight rounds of matches. Few expected it to last, nobody thought they would end up as La Liga champions come May. But the collapse in form post-Christmas has brought great alarm.

The Andalusian club have won just one of their last 10 matches in the competition and have picked up just one point in their last five matches – two goals in the final two minutes rescuing a draw at home to Eibar. They have slipped to sixth in the standings but are just four points above the bottom half, having appeared to run out of steam. Continue reading

Real Madrid condemned to more domestic failure

Real-Madrid-v-Real-Sociedad-La-Liga

Real Madrid have won the Champions League in each of the past three seasons and in four of the past five. Their remarkable, unparalleled successes in Europe have masked underachievement domestically which has at times been understandable, but at others inexcusable.

Last season was very much in the latter category. Los Blancos finished a whopping 17 points off eventual champions Barcelona and finished three points off second-placed Atletico Madrid, despite netting 36 more goals in the division. Now the situation appears is even more drastic. Continue reading

Barcelona must prioritise Champions League crown

Messi-PSV-vs-Barcelona(1)

This has been an engaging and wholly unpredictable season in La Liga but as each week goes by, it is becoming increasingly evident that Barcelona will win the league title once more. Ernesto Valverde’s side have a 12-point gap over Real Madrid and a healthy advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid.

The Blaugrana look set to win their fourth league title in the space of five seasons and their eighth crown of the last 11 on offer. Furthermore, they are into this season’s Copa del Rey final and are aiming for their fifth successive success in that competition. By any measure, the club are dominating Spanish football. Continue reading

Alaves target fairytale Champions League spot

Alaves score

What was so remarkable about Alaves winning 2-1 at Villarreal on Saturday was that it was not at all surprising. The result brought the Basque club back into the top four of La Liga, leapfrogging Sevilla and Getafe – who are yet to play this matchday. With less than a third of the season to go, Alaves are in a Champions League place.

This a team built on a budget and has no right to be competing in the top half of the Spanish top flight, never mind in the top four. Boss Abelardo Fernandez was appointed in December 2017 and has now managed the side for 49 league matches, accumulating an impressive 81 points in that run. Only Barca, Madrid and Atletico have won more points in the same timeframe. Continue reading

Huesca dare to dream of the greatest escape

Huesca

Huesca are the latest provincial Spanish club to enjoy a remarkable rise through the ranks in recent years. In 2008, they reached the second tier for the first time in their history. In 2017, they recorded their first top half finish in the campaign and, last year, they won promotion to the Primera for the first time ever.

Their first win did not take long – a 2-1 victory at Eibar on the opening day. A rousing comeback the following game against Athletic Bilbao rescued a point at San Mames and, for 13 glorious minutes, they led at the Camp Nou against Barcelona. But they lost that game 8-2 – the second of a 16-match streak in which they could not land a league victory. Continue reading