With the final leg of the season fast approaching, it’s time to consider whether La Liga fans will witness any shock upsets or whether it will just be business as usual in the Spanish top division?
Can anyone knock the mighty Barcelona off the top? Can Gary Neville salvage anything from the wreckage at Valencia? Or are they doomed to go down?
Looking at the league table, it seems difficult to imagine anyone overtaking Barcelona in the title run-in. They are in incredible form and have recently broken another club record. The team are unbeaten in 29 games across all competitions under the stewardship of Luis Enrique, a manager who seems to be on a mission to outdo his predecessors on every level. Pep Guardiola previously held the record of 28 games unbeaten in 2010/11, which was an extraordinary feat in itself.
The irrepressible Luis Suarez is on yet another scoring spree, leading the way for goals scored in the league. His Brazilian strike partner, Neymar, is not far behind either and both players have been outstanding this term. Real Madrid have been scoring more goals, but haven’t been tight enough in defence. Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, have been absolutely solid at the back, and at the time of writing have conceded the fewest goals in the league by quite a margin. Could it be the Colchoneros who are set to rain on Barca’s parade?
At 14/1 with 32red.com and Unibet to win the league, Atletico are the underdogs. Bookmakers like betway and 32red have Barcelona priced at 1/8 to be crowned champions. There are still a fair few games to go and the deficit between the two top teams isn’t that large. It would not be impossible for Atletico to cause an upset in the league and pip Barca to the number one spot in the title race.
The crunch match for the red and whites will be in the derby against Real Madrid at the end of February. They will need to win this to have any hope of going all the way. This could be a tale of two strikers, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann, both of whom are vying to make the French team for the upcoming Euro 2016 competition.
Already a serious shock this season is the state of affairs at Valencia, who have found themselves in the unlikely situation of being dragged into a relegation battle. As it stands, they are 17/1 with 32red and others to go down at the end of the season. And with Gary Neville still to register a league win as manager, these odds could shorten drastically by the week.
One of the big questions is whether Neville will hold on to his job until the end of the season? Fans must surely think that if this form continues then Peter Lim will have no choice but to part ways with the ex-Manchester United legend. It may be time to admit that this was an experiment that unfortunately failed. The thing is, the club will more likely be looking to replace the manager in the summer, when the likes of Rafa Benitez and Manuel Pellegrini will be available. Until then, it looks as though the task is very much in Neville’s hands and he desperately needs to prove his worth.
The result against Barcelona in the second leg of the Copa Del Ray semi-final was promising, albeit against a drastically weakened side. Alvaro Negredo put his team ahead and his goal would have won the tie if not for a late equaliser from Wilfrid Kaptoum. Although Neville failed to register a victory here, he can take some solace in his striker finding the net. This was Negredo’s sixth goal of the campaign, which is highly unimpressive for a forward of his calibre. However, if this goal helps him to find some form it could be vital for Valencia’ – and possibly Neville’s – survival.