La Liga Round 23 Recap

This is a bit late, but it’s been a busy week for me.

Mallorca v. Osasuna
Projection: Low scoring win for Osasuna.
Result: Mallorca 1-1 Osasuna

Was a draw really enough for either of them? I’m not sure. When you’re having this much trouble picking up points, you want to be beating your direct competition (as it looks like Mallorca and Osasuna will end up being), not drawing with them. A point just often isn’t enough if you want to make sure you stay up, though Mallorca will be glad to have at least kept Osasuna from pulling further away from the relegation fight, since Osasuna were looking like they’d take all three until Mallorca equalized at the death (it was a round for last minute goals).

Celta Vigo v. Valencia
Projection: Comfortable win for Valencia
Result: Celta 0-1 Valencia

It was about as far from comfortable as you can get and still win – Valencia broke the stalemate with a goal from Valdez (who had just been subbed in) with about 30 seconds left in extra time – but a win is a win for Valencia, who are now very much in the running for a Champions League spot, and a loss is a loss for Celta, who are finding themselves in very rough waters indeed.

Levante v. Málaga
Projection: Scoring draw
Result: Levante 1-2 Málaga

This was a vital win for Málaga, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked but unfortunately probably will be. Levante have been in a very poor run of form overall lately, with three losses in their last five going into the clash with Málaga this weekend, but there’s a huge caveat to that: their losses have all been away. At home, Levante’s league form is rock solid – before this game, they’d won seven, drawn one (to Atlético in round 1), and lost just two (to Real Madrid and Barcelona). Málaga will undoubtedly be feeling very happy that they were able to capture 3 points at a place where some of their direct competition for that fourth CL spot have faltered, and neutrals will be crossing their fingers that Málaga’s European ban gets overturned.

Levante probably won’t be feeling too badly, though. They’re still in striking distance of Europa and have a lot of winnable fixtures coming up. The major concern going forward for them is whether they’ll be able to balance Europe – because they’re still in the Europa league, and the round of 32 starts this week – and the league. On the other hand, no matter what they definitely won’t be facing relegation, which they were just two seasons ago.

Deportivo La Coruña v. Granada
Projection: Slim win for Granada
Result: Depor 0-3 Granada

Well, it wasn’t slim, but it was an emphatic win, and Granada are definitely slowly-but-surely pulling themselves to safety. They now sit in 16th – hardly comfortable, but they’re six points off the drop, and will certainly be happy about that.

Depor, on the other hand, are looking worse than ever. It’s been a very disappointing season for them, especially after they took the second division by storm last season and secured promotion after just a season in the bottom. They’re five points off safety, and at this rate, they’ll need to mimic Zaragoza from last season to have a chance at staying up.

Real Madrid v. Sevilla
Projection: Close win for Real Madrid
Result: Real Madrid 4-1 Sevilla

Not close, but certainly a win. Ronaldo scored another hat trick and is going into the midweek clash with United in excellent scoring form, and Mourinho rested several key players (including Özil and Khedira). Pepe also got onto the field for about twenty minutes after the match had been put to rest, and his return couldn’t come at a better time for Madrid – while Varane has been very impressive, they really do need more options in the defense.

Sevilla won’t be feeling especially happy about this, especially since they started strong and faltered after Benzema opened the scoring – as the game went on, they got increasingly scrappy and frustrated – but they probably didn’t expect to go to the Bernabeu and come away with anything, and they’ve still be impressive overall under Emery. They’re not in danger of the drop, but with wins from Valencia, Rayo, Málaga, and Sociedad this weekend, qualifying for Europe through the league is looking like more and more of an impossible task. They’ll definitely put everything into the second leg of their CDR tie with Atlético – if they make the final, they’ll make Europa no matter what, since both Barcelona and Madrid will be qualifying for the CL through the league.

Barcelona v. Getafe
Projection: Comfortable win for Barcelona
Result: Barcelona 6-1 Getafe

Numerically, Barcelona didn’t really need this win, especially since Atlético ended up losing to Rayo later that day, but emotionally, I think they did; they’ve had a few stumbles recently, and they needed to regain a little confidence. Getafe were pretty poor (though whether they were truly poor or Barcelona were just really good is debatable), but ultimately, it didn’t matter. Six different goalscorers, including two who were really in need of a confidence boost, great performances from Iniesta, Pique, and Thiago in particular, and the continuation of a home record second only to Atlético’s will definitely leave the team feeling good going into a rough run of games.

Getafe, it must be said, just weren’t very good. They have matched quality opposition before this season, beating both Real Madrid and Málaga, but they don’t seem able to do the same away from home, and they’re nowhere near consistent enough at home to make up for it. Europe is slipping away from them, but if they continue performing like they have, relegation is unlikely to be a serious concern, either.

Zaragoza v. Real Sociedad
Projection: Close win for Sociedad
Result: Zaragoza 1-2 Sociedad

Sociedad started off the season with a 5-1 defeat at Barcelona, and they struggled at first to find consistency. After a painful 0-1 loss to Espanyol at home in early November, however, they went on a tear. There have been thirteen league games since then. They have seven wins, five draws, and just one loss. Their loss, as many people remember, was in a thrilling 4-3 scoreline at the Bernabeu in which Prieto scored a hat trick. Their wins include a 2-5 triumph over Valencia at the Mestalla and overturning a 2 goal deficit at home to beat Barcelona 3-2. They’re continuing to take care of business, and are one point outside of Europa and three off the Champions League. Should we be taking them seriously? I think so.

Zaragoza, on the other hand, have been slipping down the table after a solid start to the season, and are currently just four points outside the relegation zone. They continue to struggle with consistency, and it could end up costing them again this season.

Athletic Bilbao v. Espanyol
Projection: Close win for Athletic
Result: Athletic 0-4 Espanyol

Things just aren’t looking up for Athletic, are they? Their showings over the last two weeks have been pretty impressive, but that doesn’t count for much if you can’t be consistent about it. They’ve now slipped to 15th in the table, and are just 6 points off the relegation zone. On one hand, it’s hard to believe that despite those numbers, they’re really in danger of relegation – this is the team (minus a couple players) who beat Manchester United last season. On the other, nobody really thought that Villarreal would go down, either, and we all know how that turned out.

Espanyol, on the other hand, have every reason to feel really proud of themselves right now. They’ve been on fire since December, losing just one game (to Barcelona at the Camp Nou) and winning four of their last five. The only two teams on a better run of form in the league are Barcelona and Real Madrid, and even that’s just by GD. A couple months ago, Espanyol looked doomed, but they’ve turned it around in time to salvage the season. They’re now eight points off the drop, and relegation is starting to look like a nightmare they’ll comfortably avert.

Rayo Vallecano v. Atlético Madrid
Projection: Close win for Rayo
Result: Rayo 2-1 Atlético

I’m going to risk looking self-congratulatory and say that I’m pretty pleased with myself for predicting this one. It was definitely one of the upsets of the weekend, and I nailed it.

Rayo’s win bumped them up to sixth. They sit behind Valencia on GD only and are just two points off a Champions League spot. Will they manage to finish in it? Probably not. However, Europa is looking like a real possibility, especially with most teams around them still involved with other competitions, and even if they don’t make it, survival is certainly not going to be coming down to the last game of the season. For a side that was only promoted to the first division last season and who were very nearly relegated less than a year ago, that’s good news.

The gap between Atlético and Real Madrid has narrowed again. Now it’s down to just four points. On one hand, you can sort of see this as being the point where Real finally overtake their cross-city rivals and start to pull away, especially since Atlético have not been in the best form lately and have some tough matches coming up. On the other, there have been a couple other points like that this season where Real have unexpectedly stumbled and let the gap widen again, and RM don’t have the easiest league matches ahead of them, either. Either way, Atlético have their automatic CL group spot pretty well wrapped up, which is the most important thing.

Betis v. Valladolid
Projection: Scoring draw
Result: Betis 0-0 Valladolid

Betis currently sit in 8th, but are potentially just one win away from taking back fourth; the fight for Europe is really, really tight. A draw at home to Valladolid isn’t great, but it’s not awful, either, especially considering that Betis haven’t been in good form lately and Valladolid are a pretty strong side. They’ve got some tough fixtures coming up, and we’ll see if they can turn it around.

Valladolid, on the other hand, will definitely see a point away at Betis as a great result; they’re comfortably mid-table but not really likely to be able to make that final push for Europe, which is quite respectable for a just-promoted side. A lot of the matches they have coming up are against sides trying for a spot in Europe – if they can pick up a few surprise results here and there, they should be in good shape going into the last part of the season.

Round Up

Prediction Result
1 Barcelona (62 points) Barcelona (62 points)
2 Atlético Madrid (50 points) Atlético Madrid (50 points)
3 Real Madrid (46 points) Real Madrid (46 points)
4 Málaga (37 points) Málaga (39 points)
5 Valencia (37 points) Valencia (37 points)
6 Rayo Vallecano (37 points) Rayo Vallecano (37 points)
7 Real Sociedad (36 points) Real Sociedad (36 points)
8 Betis (36 points) Betis (36 points)
9 Levante (34 points) Levante (33 points)
10 Valladolid (30 points) Valladolid (30 points)
11 Sevilla (29 points) Sevilla (29 points)
12 Getafe (29 points) Getafe (29 points)
13 Athletic (29 points) Espanyol (28 points)
14 Granada (26 points) Granada (26 points)
15 Espanyol (25 points) Athletic (26 points)
16 Osasuna (24 points) Zaragoza (24 points)
17 Zaragoza (24 points) Osasuna (22 points)
18 Celta Vigo (20 points) Celta Vigo (20 points)
19 Mallorca (17 points) Mallorca (18 points)
20 Depor (16 points) Depor (16 points)

2 responses to “La Liga Round 23 Recap

  1. Nice work on your predictions.

    Benzema’s goal might be a record for shortest goal ever scored. It was my favorite goal of the year so far, simply for the way he looked at the situation quite surprised before he tapped the ball in. It was priceless.
    Unfortunately, if Sanchez had been standing there in place of Benzema, he probably would’ve dived.

    • Heh, thanks. Predictions are always fun. I wish I’d had time to do them again this round.

      So true about Sanchez… his goodwill is just rapidly melting away, isn’t it? I had such high hopes for him, but this experiment just doesn’t seem to be working out.

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