For the first time in 87 years, La Liga will have nothing to play for on the final weekend with all matters decided, and it’s the league’s own fault
La Liga’s top brass has been insisting how ‘sellable’ their product is both in Spain and overseas: how amazing its teams are, the joy of top players such as Messi or Cristiano…but, surprisingly enough, they’ve been mum on the competitiveness of the tournament. This last little detail isn’t by chance.
The last time a La Liga season had nothing on the line in its last weekday was 1931 and Spain hadn’t even suffered its Civil War. Over 85-years-later and we are in a similar predicament: Weekday 38 will be a weekend with ten ‘friendlies’, with the title, the Champions League spots, the Europa League teams and the three relegated sides already decided.
But matters get even worse when we find out that the ‘real’ competition finished many weeks ago. Sure, this weekend’s draw between Sevilla and Betis allowed the Sevillistas to seize seventh place to play next season’s Europa League qualifiers. However, the two biggest draws (the winner and the three relegated teams) were already set in stone a while ago.
Let’s begin with La Liga’s winner: Barcelona decided early this year that they would win absolutely every game they played, with a few hiccups here and there but never allowing a defeat. And, therefore, they began increasing their lead as Atlético and Real Madrid stumbled more often than usual.
After Barca’s win in the Santiago Bernabeu in December they had a 14-point lead over Los Blancos. The title race was over five months before the season ended. There were a few moments throughout the season where that difference was cut short…but the silverware was never at risk. Barça won La Liga when playing against Depor in Weekday 35, with four games to go.
The other three teams who will play the Champions League were also quite clear from the beginning. Valencia’s surprising and rousing start of season placed them amongst the best, and they never let the advantage slip away.
Real Madrid, with the Champions League final in sight, and Atlético with their own Europa League final to worry about, never stopped winning and consolidating their third and second places, albeit not posing a real danger to the leader of the standings. Especially notable was Los Blancos’ choice around February to place the UCL as their top priority, as it seemed clear they would never be able to catch Barça.
What about the ’depths’ of the table? Well, it’s possibly been the most boring rat-race of the last few seasons. Málaga showed their lack of power and never stood a chance to avoid the drop – relegated five games before the end of the season. Las Palmas suffered a similar fate: they brought in Paco Jémez in December, but he didn’t turn things around; in fact, the Canaries fell further down the table and went into La Segunda with four games left.
Despite a bleak outlook, Abelardo’s arrival at Alavés put the team into the safety zone, leaving only Deportivo and Levante as relegation contenders Again, a switch on the bench became the main difference: Depor chose Clarence Seedorf, with zero experience in La Liga, whereas Levante opted for Paco Lopez, with no games coached in top-flight but over fifteen years in Spain’s lower leagues.
The outcome was predictable: eight points out of thirty, and Depor confirming its fate at the Camp Nou, while Levante became the most in-form team of La Liga with a huge 22 points from 27 and securing their spot for next year.
La Liga could’ve done without the last month of competition, which lacked the stakes of other leagues, due to the huge differences in TV rights money. The rich become richer and the poor become poorer. Only the European battle remained more or less interesting, but Betis secured their spot on Weekday 35, Villarreal did so on Weekday 36 and Sevilla took advantage of Girona’s defeat to finish the season seventh. Predictable and, might I say… a tad bit boring, right?