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Looking Ahead: Relegation possibilities

The matches are coming too fast and furious for this to make total sense, but I will try anyhow

Real Betis Balompie v Villarreal CF - La Liga
Betis doin’ the Betis thing.
Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

The two big questions in La Liga (apart from who wins the league, of course) are first, what point total will it take to get into Europe, and second, what point total will it take to stay up?

Let’s take the second one first. The bottom three are Espanyol (with a game in hand) on 24 points; Leganés on 25; and Mallorca on 29.

Espanyol can only get to 42 points if they win all their remaining matches, and they are not going to do that. Optimistically, they probably could win their “home” ones— Leganes, Eibar, Celta. They play at Barcelona—h’m; at the rapidly imploding Valencia; at Real Sociedad, who haven’t been able to get going since the break either. I don’t really see a way to get beyond 36 points. I feel 32 might be their top, in which case they’re down.

Leganès are done. Espanyol, Eibar, Athletic Club away, Valencia and Real Madrid at home. This team has found a way to lose or draw matches they should have won all season, and Barcelona taking Martin Braithwaite from them sealed their doom. Maybe they pick up a few more points, but even four wins from five would only get to 37, and more likely it’ll be 28-30.

Mallorca had the strangest 5-1 win you will ever see (some of the strangest refereeing, too). Looking at the expected goals table from Understat, Leganes and Espanyol have hugely underperformed; Mallorca, on the other hand, are quite close to where they should be. Since where they are is on 29 points with five matches left, I’m going to say yup, they really are that bad!

Atleti, Levante, Sevilla, Granada,’s not bad having two teams not playing for much still to go, but I’m figuring they maybe get 6 points, at most 9. Let’s say they get to 38 for sake of argument.

Who would that bring into relegation territory?

Five teams: Betis, Valladolid, Alaves, Eibar, Celta.

Interestingly, the first three don’t have any matches remaining against the bottom three, but they certainly do against their fellow stragglers.

Betis (37 pts): Celta (A), Osasuna (H), Atleti (A), Alaves (H), Valladolid (A). I have to think they are probably safe, though one should never underestimate Betis’s ability to Betis....

Valladolid (35 pts): Alaves (H), Valencia (A), Barcelona (H), Eibar (A), Betis (H).

Valladolid probably need a couple of points to be safe. They are the masters of the draw; since the break they have four draws and only four goals conceded (and scored) in six matches.

Alavès (35 pts): If there is a team on 35 points that could be in trouble, it’s maybe this one, because their form is poor and their remaining schedule is terrible. Valladolid, Real Madrid and Betis away, Getafe and Barcelona at home is not what a team with one win in six since the break wants to see. What if they get stuck on 35 or 36?

Eibar (35 pts, a game in hand): Osasuna, Leganès, Valladolid at home, Sevilla, Espanyol and Villarreal away. With back-to-back wins against Valencia and Granada, and only one loss since coming back, I expect they’ll pick up 4-6 points from the home games and be fine.

Celta (34 pts): They could have ended all the discussion with a win against Mallorca, but here we are. If they defeat Betis on Saturday, I expect they’re fine; if they don’t, matches remain against Atleti (H), Osasuna (A), Levante (H), and Espanyol (A).

SO, what to make of all this?

(1) If Espanyol are to mount any sort of threat, they have to win at La Real tomorrow. Otherwise even taking 12 points from their remaining 15 (highly unlikely) is unlikely to be enough. (They’re probably done, though maybe a healthy RDT can work a miracle?)

(2) Big matches in Jornada 34: Celta-Betis and Valladolid-Alaves. Whoever wins these (if there are winners) can look forward to Primera football next season.

(3) Mallorca’s best chance of survival is to get results to put pressure on the sides ahead of them. I don’t think they are good enough to stay up (they have the worse defense in the league by far) but they do have more wins this season than Valladolid or Celta. They own the tiebreak against Celta and Eibar, so they have to hope these are the teams ahead of them that lose, and keep losing.