LaLiga 2017-18: a film with the plot twists revealed at half-time
I always remember Luis Aragonés saying that in LaLiga we're basically all treading water until the closing stages of the season, when everyone starts swimming for the finish line. Points are worth the same from the beginning to the end of the campaign but it is in the final lap when they are contested differently, when there is no longer any margin for error. That's why I find this season such a curious one. I can't call to mind another when so many of the important matters have been resolved with eight games to go, beginning with the destination of the title. Barcelona already have the luxury of working out when it will be mathematically impossible to be caught and there is the added curiosity of whether or not Real Madrid will be forced to provide a guard of honour at Camp Nou.
But it's not just the title. Behind Barça three other sides go into next season's Champions League and we already know who they are. This season fourth place in LaLiga is sufficient to send the side that finishes there straight into the group stages without having to negotiate the playoffs. Therefore second to fourth are interchangeable and it's scarcely relevant who ends up where (other than local bragging rights in Madrid). From Valencia in fourth to Sevilla in fifth there is a chasm of 15 points. At the other end of the table the situation is fairly similar. Levante, 17th, have opened up a seven-point advantage over 18th-placed Las Palmas and the two sides meet next weekend in the Ciutat de Valencia, where anything other than a win for Paco Jémez’s side will effectively sound the death knell for their Primera status.
In reality the only area remaining where there is anything left to be decided is the Europa League places. There are three up for grabs given that the Copa del Rey champions are awarded one and both of this year's finalists, Barcelona and Sevilla, will already be in the Champions League. That means that fifth to seventh in the league grants entry to Uefa’s second-tier competition. A glance at the table shows that there are a number of sides that can snatch that final spot, among them Girona, the revelation of this season in Primera. However, only five points separate them from Getafe in 11th. It is now in that “B-list” zone of the table that the most interesting script of the season remains. Elsewhere, the final twists have been revealed ahead of time. On the other hand, we have plenty of excitement remaining in Europe, with four Spanish sides remaining in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and Europa League.
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