2019/20 LaLiga Half-Season Recap
Written by Matt Clark
The 2019/20 LaLiga season has been a roller-coaster of action so far. It's all even at the top, the newly promoted sides have come in with a bang and the relegation battle is heating up at the bottom.
The second half of the season is underway, and it began in parallel with that of the Quique Setién era at Barcelona. There have been numerous intriguing games and storylines up and down the table, with some significant results which may shape the rest of the campaign. The focus shifts towards the decisive positions in LaLiga: the destination of the title, the race for European positions, and the battle to avoid relegation. Here is a brief analysis of the state of those three dimensions within this engaging season.
Saturday afternoon saw the game of the weekend in many people’s opinion, as 2nd played host to 3rd at the Santiago Bernabéu and Real Madrid came out on top with a 2-1 victory over Sevilla in a match dominated by VAR controversies. Barcelona kept pace with Los Blancos with a 1-0 victory over a dogged Granada, with, as ever, Lionel Messi as the point of difference. Atlético Madrid fell further off the pace with a 2-0 defeat at rainy Ipurúa, with some now writing off their title chances.
Here is a visual representation of the flow of the season so far, with Barcelona and Real Madrid moving eight points clear at the top. They remain locked together on points, as they have been for nine matchdays already this season. There is clearly little to separate them, but one way of attempting to analyse the respective performances is to directly compare the results in like-for-like fixtures.
In this ‘indicative index’, Barcelona are actually six points better off than Real Madrid. How is this calculated? By comparing results in fixtures where both teams have played, such as Eibar away, Granada at home, Atleti away, etc. In such games, Barcelona have won three fixtures where Real Madrid could only draw, hence the six-point advantage (Real Betis at home, Real Valladolid at home, Atleti away).
While this looks good for Barcelona, the obvious caveat is that in games where Barcelona have dropped points, Real Madrid are yet to play those matches, so they can make up ground there. Equally, Real Madrid have arguably had the tougher set of fixtures thus far, and have won away at Sevilla and drawn at Camp Nou. Barcelona still have to travel to Sevilla and the home of Los Blancos.
Matchday 20 was also a significant one in the race for Europe. With the exception of the top two, Getafe were the only side in the top half to win, with a comprehensive Friday night triumph over South Madrid rivals Leganés. Consequently, they have leapfrogged Real Sociedad into 5th place. La Real lost at Real Betis, while Valencia were hammered by Mallorca and Villarreal were overcome by Espanyol. Athletic Club recorded their fourth consecutive draw, at home to Celta Vigo.
As the graph indicates, it is so tight in the race for those positions, and despite most dropping points, the defeats for Sevilla and Atleti will give encouragement and hope that even two Champions League positions are in play. 3rd-placed Atleti are only eight points ahead of 11th-placed Betis.
The relegation battle is also hotting up. After Lega’s heavy defeat at Butarque on Friday, the teams around them knew they had an opportunity to capitalise. Alavés, Eibar, Mallorca and Espanyol took full advantage, while Real Valladolid and Celta achieved draws in tough away fixtures.
Espanyol won only their third game of the season to move level on points with Lega at the foot of the table, and they are now just four points away from a position of safety. With the appointment of Abelardo and the acquisition of Raúl de Tomás (who scored against the Yellow Submarine), the sensations are more positive for the Pericos.
Eibar were the weekend’s surprise, deservedly defeating Atlético Madrid 2-0 at home, whereas Mallorca achieved the standout result of the weekend, beating Valencia 4-1 at Son Moix with another brace from Ante Budimir, to move out of the drop zone at the expense of Celta. Mallorca’s home form is strong, but they have only one point from 27 so far on the road in LaLiga, so achieving more positive results on the island will be paramount if they are to continue to stay above water.
Overall, it is by no means terminal for Leganés, but considering their heavy defeat against Getafe, coupled with all of the teams around them picking up points and showing signs of life, it could barely have been a worse weekend for them.
Looking deeper, the mini-table between these clubs in insightful and suggests where the key battles will be fought in the second half of the season.
The key standouts are the home form of Alavés and Leganés, while Celta are pointless on the road, with Espanyol collecting nothing at their own ground. And despite their position at the bottom of the league, Lega have actually done well in these clashes, with eight of their 11 points coming under the stewardship of Javier Aguirre.
Alavés have played five of their six direct rivals at home though, so they face some tough away trips, while Espanyol are the reverse, having barely played at RCDE Stadium against their fellow strugglers. Mallorca will be confident that they still have four of these games at Son Moix, while Celta will need to turn their draws into wins. They go to Espanyol on the final day of the season.
It all points towards a fascinating second half of the 2019-20 campaign, and while the above might give us a rough guide as to what happens next, LaLiga is known for its unpredictability especially when the pressure starts to mount.
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