Imagine having won the Copa del Rey, having been in La Liga for sixteen consecutive seasons, once having Michael Laudrup as a manager, once coming fifth in La Liga just after being promoted, once coming 7 points ahead of Barcelona, having a fantastic academy, a rich history and a run of three seasons going from lost Segunda souls to winning the Supercopa and losing a UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup final; this very club is now in La Segunda, was taken over by American investors who splashed the cash in January, and yet is 19th in the table,having gone through three different managers, including one lasting just 47 days, going into the final matchday with their future in the division not in their hands, with two teams ahead of them by a point.
And yet, they are perhaps the safest of the three clubs fighting to stay alive.
One team must go down, and the possibilities are endless. Almería and Ponferradina are currently on 47 points, with Almería on top because of head-to-head. Mallorca are on 46, and face Real Valladolid away, a team they haven’t beaten on the road since 2010. They may be the safest of them all though - Ponferradina face Girona at home and Almería travel to Córdoba.
Mallorca need a win and for at least one relegation contender to drop points. If Mallorca draw and one (or both) of the two teams lose, they go through - Mallorca have better head-to-head than both teams, individually and in the case of a three-way tie.
Ponferradina need to win; if they lose then they need Mallorca to lose, and if they draw they need Almería to lose or Mallorca to win.
Almería need to win; if they draw, they’re through as long as both Mallorca and Ponferradina don’t win; if they lose, they need one (or both) of the other teams to lose.
So why do Mallorca look safe?
Because Real Valladolid have nothing to play for - Girona and Córdoba do though.
Five teams. Five fixtures. 243 possibilities. Three spots. Now how about that for a final matchday - and yes, Marca got it wrong.
Zaragoza on 64 points, Córdoba on 64 points, Girona on 63 points, Osasuna on 61 points and Alcorcón on 61 points. Already relegated Llagostera host Zaragoza, Oviedo host Osasuna, and Alcorcón host Elche.
So what does all that mean?
It means that all 243 cases have been crunched!
Real Zaragoza needs to gain points, or lose and hope that any of the following scenarios doesn't happen:
- Osasuna and Alcorcón win, and Córdoba don't lose.
- Osasuna, Alcorcón and Girona win.
- Girona and Osasuna win, and Córdoba don't lose.
- Girona draw and Alcorcón win.
- Girona draw and Osasuna win.
Córdoba needs to gain points; lose, and they have to hope that any of the following scenarios doesn't happen:
- Osasuna and Alcorcón win, Girona draw and Zaragoza don't lose.
- Osasuna and Alcorcón win and Girona lose.
- Girona and Alcorcón win.
- Girona and Osasuna win.
Girona needs to win, or hope that any of the following scenarios doesn't happen:
- If Girona lose:
- Osasuna win
- Osasuna don't win and Alcorcón win.
- If Girona draw:
- Osasuna win, Córdoba lose and Zaragoza don't lose.
- Alcorcón win, Osasuna don't win, Córdoba lose and Zaragoza don't lose.
- Osasuna and Alcorcón win, Córdoba don't win and Zaragoza lose.
Alcorcón needs to win, and hope that any of the following scenarios happens:
- Zaragoza and Córdoba lose.
- Zaragoza lose and Girona don't win.
- Córdoba lose and Girona don't win.
- Córdoba lose and Osasuna don't win.
- Girona lose and Osasuna don't win.
Osasuna needs to win, and hope that any of the following scenarios happens:
- Zaragoza lose and Córdoba don't win.
- Zaragoza lose and Alcorcón don't win.
- Zaragoza lose and Girona don't draw (both a win or loss are fine weirdly)
- Córdoba lose and Girona don't win.
- Córdoba lose and Alcorcón don't win.
- Girona lose and Alcorcón don't win.
- Girona lose, Córdoba don't lose and Zaragoza don't lose, or
- Girona win, Córdoba lose and Zaragoza don't lose,
the final playoff spot will be decided by goal difference. Osasuna are currently on +2, and Alcorcón on +1. It would take a lot for that to happen - but weirder things have happened in the Segunda playoffs.
And yet, after a few hundred words, we come to the matches that actually might matter the most: Gimnàstic hosting already-promoted Alavés, and Leganés travelling to Mirandés.
The team that could be promoted twice in two years, one of the oldest football clubs in Spain, hailing from the small town of Tarragona and was originally was not a football club but a gymnastics club, could be back in La Liga. And that’s just Gimnàstic. Leganés, a club in Madrid but with friendlier relations with Egaleo, could be in La Liga - that’s Egaleo, in Greece.
Leganés win and they are through - they can go through with not winning as long as Gimnàstic don’t win as well. Gimnàstic have to win and hope Leganés drop points - a draw is not enough due to, surprise surprise, head-to-head.
So as the teams compete as we speak, all that can be said is - make sure you check your head-to-head.
Update (6th February 2017): The original version of this article got the head-to-head wrong (and by extension the 243 cases). So I re crunched them, because why not, and voila.