A ‘League’ of ten against relegation

A ‘League’ of ten against relegation

With 12 games to go before the end of the Primera División, half of the teams in the highest category of Spanish football live with concern the usual annual battle for relegation. So much so that between Mallorca, eleventh place and Valencia, a team that currently marks the first place that falls in category, there are six points.

There are only two games difference at a crucial moment where the calendar will live the next days almost always duels between direct rivals. Some of those who are there did not even expect to be in that situation before the start of the championship in mid-August. Valencia and Seville used to fight to get into Europe years ago and now they are two of the unexpected guests in this fight for permanence. Rubén Baraja’s men occupy, after falling on the last day against the reborn Atlético de Madrid, the last place towards depression.

The only one that seems evicted is Elche, a candidate for Sporting de Gijón’s record for the worst bottom team since the 3-point leagues (since 1997).

At this point in the season it is not usual to see teams so close in the table and it is normal for the differences to be somewhat clearer between the bottom, those in the middle of the table and those fighting for Europe.

Last year, for example, between those two positions in the standings there was a distance of almost four games, while in the previous three seasons the distance was a ‘comfortable’ 10 points. In 2017 and 2018 the gap was almost insurmountable: 15 points, which separated Celta from Las Palmas, and Granada from Deportivo de La Coruña.

You have to go back 15 years to find a League with so many teams against relegation. In 2008 Recreativo de Huelva and Betis were only separated by 3 points. A League that in which whoever wanted to avoid relegation had to add more than 40 points and lived a last day of ‘heart attack’ with four teams involved until the end: Zaragoza said goodbye to the category with 42. A situation similar to that It happened in 2003, when the same distance of 3 points separated Deportivo from Mallorca and a surprising low-key Barcelona coached by Radomir Antic and moving in the middle of the table. At that time Espanyol’s 43 points prevented their debacle.

There is a widespread belief that by achieving 40 points, salvation is practically done, but that maximum should not be fulfilled this season. In the last twenty years the figure has not always guaranteed this action either. The teams currently involved in avoiding relegation will need a good part of those 36 points that are still to be played if they want to continue for another year in the elite of Spanish football.

The logical thing is that more than 40 must be added to maintain the category, something that has happened up to 14 times in the last 23 years, the last in 2019 when Celta reached 41. However, in the last three years several teams have freed from the ‘well’ adding a few less: Cádiz 39 (2022), Elche 36 (2021) or Celta 37 (2020). In 2016 the amount was touched, adding Sporting de Gijón 39 to continue another year in the First Division to the detriment of Rayo Vallecano; one of the most demanding campaigns of recent times.

It is also true that on occasions like in 2018 Leganés added 43 points but the difference with relegated Deportivo was 14 points, so without that amount they would have also been saved. The Galicians fell that year with 29 points, which translates into the worst second to last that our football has given.

Others, despite far exceeding that figure, were forced to say goodbye to Primera. The most expensive salvation since the year 2000 is that of Numancia with 45 points, the year in which three historic Spanish football players were relegated: Betis (42), Atlético de Madrid (38) and Sevilla (28). Meanwhile, Deportivo de la Coruña starred in the most expensive relegation with 43 in 2011. The limit is 35 points. Since victory is worth three points, a team with that number had never been saved. Granada and Deportivo did it in 2015, drawing with Eibar, which would finally be saved by the administrative relegation of an Elche indebted to the Treasury. Leganés repeated the scenario two years later.


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