This season has seen the usual suspects Real Madrid and Barcelona run away with league, Villareal and Valencia fight for the 3rd and 4th spots, and Atletico’s performance resemble a sine wave with plenty of crests and troughs. But, the biggest surprises have been Espanyol and Hercules. The mid-table is extremely congested and it will take an oracle to predict the final order. Nevertheless, we take a look in the rear-view mirror to refresh the highlights of the season and try to predict the future based on the observations.
The current positions mentioned below are as they were on 31st December, 2010.
Current Position: 17th
After winning their promotion a few years back, Almeria finished an astounding 8th in that season. But like so many other teams before them, their story has been of steady decline ever since. The current position is precisely the finish that could have been expected of a side as modest as Almeria.
Predicted Position: 15th
Current position: 8th
One of the few sides never to be relegated from Primera Division, the Basque side are flying high chiefly due to the exploits of their star striker Llorente who has been in imperious form and has already scored 10 goals. However, their second half will largely depend on whether they can fend off Real Madrid from their prized asset. If they can, they might even finish in a European spot. If not, the usual midtable finish is more likely.
Predicted Position: 10th
Current Position: 6th
The less illustrious neighbors of Real Madrid are now playing their typical season characterized by inconsistency. Despite finishing outside European spots last season, they managed to sneak in by winning the UEFA cup. This year, the reigning champions suffered an ignominious group stage exit. However, given their inconsistency, it might actually work in their favor as far as La Liga is concerned. With Forlan and Aguero coming back, they look a safe bet for a UEFA spot and the dark horses for the 4th spot.
Predicted Position: 5th
Current Position: 1st
The Catalan team is brimming with confidence and the swagger is visible in their performances on field.
Real Madrid’s arch nemesis
Averaging 3 goals a match, they are head and shoulders above all others in the world, let alone their arch rivals Real Madrid. Considering they have an unassailable lead of 5-0 in the ‘first leg’ of La Liga title decider and their bench does have the quality to dispatch lesser opponents, it is difficult to see anyone stopping them from taking a 3rd consecutive title in a row.
Predicted Position: 1st
DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA
Current position: 13th
The term ‘super depor’ sounds like a distant dream now. From one time European contenders and La Liga heavyweights, their fall from grace is truly remarkable. They lost arguably their best player in left-bacl Luis Filipe and failed to bring any decent replacements for their front-line. This seemed to have doomed them for sure. They had failed score from open play in their first 5 matches and the first 8 matches yielded only 4 points. Gradually, they have started to recover, but worries over their front-line need to be addressed if they want to stay in the top division.
Predicted Position: 12th
Current position: 5th
The ‘other’ Catalan team, formed to fight the ‘foreigners’ from Barca, has exceeded all expectations this season including perhaps even the expectations of most devout of their fans. They were even in 4th position before they lost 5-1 to their cross-town rivals. However, their high position belies their lack of firepower upfront, having scored only 18 goals this season in 16 matches. Despite their heroics, it is unlikely that their remarkable run of defensive prowess will continue. However, their relatively strong start should see them finish higher than last few seasons.
Predicted Position: 9th
Current Position: 7th
Unlike Real Madrid, this capital side operates on a shoestring budget and punches above its weight. Driven by a canny management, they are currently in a fight for European spot and given their previous seasons’ achievements, it is not entirely impossible to snag another European spot. However, given the reinforcements by other sides and their own failure to do so might just cost them a European berth.
Predicted Position: 7th
Current Position: 12th
Hercules’ relatively remarkable run can be attributed to 3 players: Nelson Valdez, Trezeguet and Drenthe. Initially regarded as relegation fodder, they are still strong favorites to go down again. Their survival will depend hugely on their ability to retain Trezeguet and Valdez. If can they do so a midtable finish is not entirely unlikely.
Predicted Position: 16th
Current position: 16th
Levante are the perennial shuttlers between the top and first divisions and this season should be the one that sends them down. Taught a footballing lesson by Real Madrid in the 8-0 defeat, they are sure to be going down this year.
Predicted Position: 18th
Current position: 18th
Ironically, Malaga’s problems are unlike of the usual relegation strugglers. They have scored a decent number of goals, but have also shipped them in by bucket loads. With the worst defensive record in La Liga, they brought in Pellegrini who is known for his attacking style of play. Despite everything, it is difficult to see Pellegrini failing to survive the drop. They will most probably entertain neutrals and fans alike and barely survive the drop.
Predicted Position: 17th
Current Position: 10th
Mallorca have slowly and surely become the regular members of the top division with their sound management. They are neither good nor bad, just plain average. This is where their future lies and it difficult to see them finishing very high or even very low.
Predicted Position: 11th
Current position: 15th
Like Mallorca, Osasuna too are a regular top division side. With a decent strike force upfront, they are a safe bet to survive. Their aim will be to prolong their stay in Primera divison.
Predicted Position: 13th
Current position: 14th
Racing’s season finishes have been topsy-turvy for the last few years. They have finished 16th, 12th, 6th and 10th in their last four seasons. Even though they are a side that doesn’t score freely, this year has been dismal even by their standards, as they have found the back of the net only 13 times in 16 matches. Having said that, their La Liga experience should see them survive the drop.
Predicted Position: 14th
Current position: 2nd
With even Jose Mourinho admitting that La Liga is between them and Barcelona and that the league maybe decided by the two games that they play each other, the pretensions to the contrary are off.
Without a doubt, Real Madrid are still a work in progress and that was evident at Camp Nou. With a huge squad depth, Real are more than capable of sustaining a title challenge, but the heroics similar to that of 2006-07 are unlikely to yield the same result. This league is Barcelona’s to lose and that sums it all.
Predicted Position: 2nd
Current position: 9th
With several years in wilderness, ‘La Real’ are back in the top division and seem to be enjoying it. The Basque side have traditionally been fierce competitors and their victory against arch rivals Bilbao underlines the fact that their fighting edge has not been blunted by a stint in ‘La Segunda’. With the really excellent Xabi Prieto, they should have a comfortable top half finish.
Predicted Position: 8th
Current position: 20th
To sum up their season in one line – they are going to be relegated. They have lost their best players and the others who have taken their place are just not good enough. They should start preparing for another drop and a finish at the bottom of the table.
Predicted Position: 20th
Current position: 11th
They might be forgiven for thinking that they belong in the Champions League, instead of UEFA cup, but their failure to qualify might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Sevilla are clearly struggling as their performances in all competitions amply display. But they are still alive in all three competitions and can easily repeat their earlier success if they can get their house in order, while there is still time. One can expect them to do so and finish the season on a strong note, although another Champions League spot seems impossible.
Predicted Position: 6th
Current position: 19th
Their brief sojourn in the top flight seems to be over this time around and even their ‘thuggery’ and foul play seem to be yielding no results.
Predicted Position: 19th
Current position: 4th
One keeps on writing them off and they keep on coming back. The resilience of this side cannot be described in words. After being riddled in debt, losing their best players and making cut price signings, they were expected to struggle this season, but have done remarkably well.
Unai Emery certainly deserves a lot of praise and surely he can look forward to a job at top 2 clubs in La Liga sometime in future.
Predicted Position: 4th
Current position: 3rd
The ‘yellow submarine’ is back to what it does best – torpedoing their opponents. The formidable pair of Rossi and Nilmar have really struck up a sweet partnership and are tormenting the teams. It is a shame that they will face Valencia in Copa Del Rey and that one these two magnificent sides will go out after the next leg. A Champions League qualification surely seems to in order and it’s what they deserve.
Predicted Position: 3th