And so, the Segunda División slog continues. Last year was an incredibly tight season (Eibar won the league with 71 points) and this year things are looking close as well.
There are five teams that seem to have made some separation from the rest.
Current leaders Real Betis (62 points) have won five of their last six; Pepe Mel seems to have the magic touch again. Ruben Castro has fired in 20 goals, and fellow thirtysomething Jorge Molina has 11. In a league where goals are tough to come by, that's pretty good, and their defense is one of the best too. Plus, their remaining schedule looks relatively easy, with matches against a lot of the clubs with not a lot to play for at this point. Betis have won the Segunda in the recent past, and the support of their fan base, and experienced personnel on the pitch, ought to translate into one of the top two positions.
Next come Girona (59 points). They had a stretch in February and early March where they won only one of 7, but now they've won their last two. They don't have a terribly difficult remaining schedule either; my concern about them is, this is the time of year when to get promoted you need someone your team can rally behind, and/or you need firepower. Betis has Castro, and a number of players with Primera experience they can draw on to get them through the tough bits; Girona has a lot of experienced Segunda players. They're looking more like a playoff team than an automatic promotion spot to me.
It's good to see Sporting Gijon (58) doing so well this season (58 points), though I gather their brand of football isn't exactly the most attractive. They are the King of Draws: 14 wins, 16 draws (!) and only two losses (to Betis at home and Valladolid away). Their defense is great, but their leading scorers--with seven goals each--are a 21-year old striker and an 18-year old midfielder, and Sporting haven't scored more than one goal in six matches now, drawing four of their last five. They'll probably get into the playoffs, but not sure about the auto promotion place.
The last two years Las Palmas (56) has made some great early running, spearheaded by a young talent, only to fade late, end up in the playoffs, and then find ways to lose. And that script might come true again this term, because after a great start, and aided by Sergio Araujo's 15 goals, the islanders have lost 3 of their last 4 and have won only one in their last seven. Their next two home matches--Girona and Valladolid--ought to tell us a lot about whether these guys are maybe gonna challenge for an automatic promotion spot or not. They'll probably get into the playoffs in any case, though, thanks to their good first half.
Real Valladolid (54) have had a strange season. One loss in their first 15, then 4 of 6 dropped, then 7 wins out of 10, now 4 of 5 dropped. They have a good roster (including of course our loanees Hernan Perez and Jony Pereira), their next two matches are at home and eminently winnable. I could see them making a run at the end to cop second place the way we did, because apart from Las Palmas on the 25th, their schedule is pretty nice.
Sixth place--the final playoff spot--is really up for grabs. At present it's Real Zaragoza (48) who hold it. For them, it's all about young striker Borja Bastón, who has 20 goals so far. The problem (or opportunity, depending on how you look at it) is that they have matches remaining against the five clubs ahead of them. And with only one win and five draws in their last eight..... Who might take advantage? The on-form teams at the moment are Llagostera (46) with seven wins and two draws in their last nine, and Alavés (44), with four wins in five. Ponferradina (46) are struggling a bit.