12 months is a long time in football, and when a season lasts almost that long, it can seem like an eternity.
Last July, here at SBOBET, we were reporting on close season disarray at Real Madrid, while the recruitment of Antoine Griezmann to the Camp Nou seemed to cement Barca’s position as favourites, strongly backed by the La Liga 2020 betting odds; but fast forward a year and things turned out rather differently.
The Blaugrana misfired in the title run-in and Los Blancos took advantage, much to Lionel Messi’s annoyance, and at the bottom end of the table there was more misery in northern Spain as Espanyol contrived to combine a Europa League campaign with relegation to the Segunda Division.
Both Barcelona and Espanyol had La Liga seasons to forget but how did it all go so wrong in Catalonia?
Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing but even at the time of Ernesto Valverde’s sacking at the Camp Nou in January something didn’t seem quite right. The Blaugrana were top of La Liga and the reasons hinted at for Valverde’s demise was his perceived inability to win the Champions League, having watched Zinedine Zidane pick up three consecutive European crowns with Real Madrid.
But when Quique Setien’s name was mentioned no-one could quite work out why the former Real Betis coach was the man in the frame. He was being linked with the vacant position at Premier League strugglers Watford, but ended up in one of the most prestigious hot seats in European football.
Now Setien looks like he’s heading for the exit door, though he remains in charge while Barca conclude this season’s Champions League campaign. Former Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino has been linked with the Barca job, but the ex Espanyol legend has said he won’t consider working at the Camp Nou out of loyalty. And now former Barca favourite Patrick Kluivert is being talked about.
Comings and goings in the manager’s office weren’t the only reasons for Barca’s failure to retain the title. The recruitment of Griezmann dominated the pre-season La Liga 2020 news but the Frenchman took too long to settle, while an injury to Luis Suarez meant too much rested on the shoulders of captain Messi.
In the end, they couldn’t keep up with Real Madrid who just carried on winning.
And over at the RCDE Stadium a season which started with such promise ended in disaster for Espanyol FC. Embarking on a Europa League campaign, nobody expected Los Periquitos to become rooted to the bottom position and fall through the trap door to the second tier.
As the players showed in the narrow defeat to Barca which confirmed relegation, Espanyol isn’t a team short on quality. The four times Copa del Rey winners have been in the top flight since 2004 and are one of Spain’s most prestigious clubs and they might try to tempt Pochettino to bring the glory days back.
Dark mood at the Mestalla
Getafe were desperately unlucky to miss out on a European place while Valencia, finishing in ninth, really should have done better. With players of the calibre of skipper Dani Parejo and striker Kevin Gameiro a top seven place was well within their grasp, but two defeats from their last three games consigned Valencia to ninth position.
They sacked head coach Albert Celades after three defeats in four games following football’s post COVID 19 return in Spain. He’d only been in the job for nine months following the dismissal of Marcelino Garcia Toral in September. For sure, the fans at the Mestalla are among the most demanding in football, but the club needs stability and the board must hold its nerve before hiring and firing so freely in future.
Leganes and Mallorca fall through the trap door
It’s no great surprise that Leganes and new boys Real Mallorca were relegated alongside Espanyol.
The Madrid minnows have been in the top flight for four seasons, which is an incredible feat for a club which extended its capacity to 12,000 on promotion to the top flight, but time has caught up with them. Leganes fought bravely to the last, even drawing with Real Madrid as Los Blancos marched to the title, but were just a single point short in the end.
Real Mallorca struggled throughout the season and they will be fighting with Leganes at the top end of the Segunda Division next year, but Celta Vigo, who finished 17th, had a poor season and can consider themselves very lucky to escape.
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