Table Watch, Week 28

Hey, it’s the international break! Sounds like a great time for another edition of Table Watch! When we last looked in on the table, a series of fortunate results in week 24 had conspired to move Sevilla up to 10th, improbably close to European positions despite a season of mediocre performances and even a mid-season coaching change. Today we’ll examine how things looks today, and take a look at our next string of games to see if any likely results or trends present themselves.

But first! A couple stats to note as we peruse the table. First of all, Sevilla’s 4–0 result on Sunday gives them their best goal differential in recent memory at +3. This positive goal differential of course feels good, but it also could come in handy at the end of the season, as Sevilla is the only team outside the top six with a positive goal differential. Obviously a +3 GD is almost not positive at all, and knowing this team it could well be −6 in a week’s time. But for now it’s a nice little stat to see.

Another intersting stat: only the top three teams (Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico) have a better home record than Sevilla’s 10 wins. That’s pretty cool! Way to go, Sevilla! Unfortunately the companion to that stat is that only lowly, last-place Deportivo has a worse record on the road than us, having yet to manage a victory away from home (Sevilla: 1 away win this season). I guess when you average those two stats you’d expect to see Sevilla in the middle of the table, which is perhaps not coincidentally exactly where you find them today. So then let’s take a closer look at the table this week:

We’ll begin with Málaga (6th place, 44 points), who perhaps paid for their inspiring (if you’re not a Sevilla fan) qualification to the quarterfinals in the Champions League at mid-week with an away loss to Espanyol, their third consecutive La Liga match without a win, a streak which has seen them fall from 4th to 6th. Normally at this stage in the season you want every team above your team to lose, but Malaga is a special case, since they are disqualified from European competition next year, and it’s only if they finish in the top 7 spots that 8th place in La Liga would play in Europa. With that understood, and keeping in mind their recent slide on the table, and remembering that their next 2 weeks include 4 tough matches (@ Rayo (9th), v Borussia, @ Sociedad (4th), @ Borussia) followed by v Osasuna and @ Valencia (5th), it’d probably be a good idea to figure on 7th place being the last ticket to Europe; Málaga looks set to continue their current downward trend in La Liga in the next month.

1 point and 1 place below Málaga is Betis (7th, 43). The last month has been a mixed bag for Betis, getting a win (Málaga), draw (Sociedad), and a loss (Valencia) in a 4 match stretch that saw them face the 3 teams above them on the table. But they won the easy match in the four (Osasuna), all of which combined to allow them to maintain their ownership of the last spot in Europe. That’s great. I’m happy for them. Wonderful. Their next 4 matches will be a similarly mixed bag: home to Getafe (8th), at Granada (16th), vs Sevilla (KILLKILLKILL), at Real Madrid (2nd). I don’t suppose I need to tell you the key matchup there will be hosting Sevilla, but also that game with Getafe could mean a lot for Sevilla since it’s two teams above us. I see them with 4 points from the games against not-Sevilla; the derbi should be crucial and entertaining.

Another point and another spot down brings us to Getafe (8th, 42), who were behind us 4 weeks ago. But this week they’re ahead of us, so they’re a problem now. After the previously mentioned visit to Betis next week, Geta host Atleti (3rd), visit Valladolid (12th), and then host Espanyol (13th). Probably a pretty manageable set, right? Especially when you consider their form: they haven’t lost since their Feb 10 meeting with Barca, and if you ignore their matches with the Big 2, they haven’t lost since Jan 7. That’s a pretty good two and a half months, and they’ve certainly moved up accordingly; they were in 12th place just 5 weeks ago. I’ve got a bad feeling these guys will still be ahead of us in 4 weeks when we check in on the table again.

Rayo are yet another point and spot down the table (9th, 41). Rayo fans are likely frustrated with their last 4 weeks, dropping all three points at home to Valladolid, only managaging a draw at last-placed Depor, losing at Barca, and getting their only win at home to Espanyol. That’s 4 points that pretty easily could have been 9, or at least 7. That kind of form isn’t super conducive to upward movement on the table, and sure enough they’ve fallen from 6th to 9th in the last month. It’s sort of maddening that Sevilla didn’t manage to move ahead of a team falling like that, but maybe the next 4 weeks will be different? Rayo hosts falling Málaga, visits Celta (19th), hosts somehow-still-doing-great Sociedad (4th), then visits Mallorca (18th), who keep being the kind of team that’s good enough that you don’t want to face them feeling desperate and in the relegation zone. I’m thinking Rayo’s going to keep struggling, dropping some points on those visits to relegation teams, and losing at Sociedad; next time we check in Rayo supporters may well be gnashing their teeth.

That brings us to Sevilla at 10th place on 38 points, a full game from Rayo in 9th. The last 4 weeks were the exact kind of mixed bag that has typified this season: 4–1 and 4–0 home wins to Celta and Zaragoza respectively, and 2–1 losses away to Barca (sure!) and Mallorca (wait what?). Next up for our heroes is a visit to Levante, a point behind in the table at 11th, hosting Bilbao (14th), at Betis (7th), and then hosting Atleti (3rd). So, basically: Emery needs to figure out this away form situation stat because a loss at Levante would see us fall into the bottom half of the table, and would suddenly put a lot of pressure on that game with Athletic—can you imagine heading to Betis on a 2-game losing streak and falling fast in the table? Ugh, I’m not saying I expect it, but it’s not that hard to see more losses than wins in the next 4 matches, right? Damn, we need an away win. That Levante game looks like it could do a lot to predict the next month and the rest of the season. Hopefully we use the break to get our shit together, and hopefully everyone who plays comes back full of energy from sitting on the bench or on great form after scoring a million goals for their respective national teams. Because these last 4 games were the easy ones, and it doesn’t get much easier after these next 4.

So, on that kind-of downer note…Vamos! Do you guys see any cause for more optimism that I’m putting out there? Cheer me up!