La Liga

La Liga Table Week 26: Clubs That Received Biggest Boost in Matchday 25 Results

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 22:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts after Antoine Griezmann of Real Sociedad scored his team's second goal goal during the La Liga match between Real Sociedad and FC Barcelona at Estadio Anoeta on February 22, 2014 in San Sebastian, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2014

Just when you think La Liga is done providing any more twists and turns, Barcelona goes and loses 3-1 to Real Sociedad. This season has been unpredictable, at least by the league's standards, and that result only illustrates the fact more.

With Barca slipping, it keeps the door open for Atletico Madrid to do the impossible and break up the Spanish duopoly. Until that moment actually happens, though, it only seems a pipe dream.

That isn't the only race going on in La Liga, though, as the battle for fourth and relegation fight remain extremely tight. Once you get outside the top three, there are a lot of clubs within just a few points of one another, and one bad result could mean the difference between success and failure when looking back on the season.

Here's a look at the table:

La Liga Table after Matchday 25
Pos.ClubPWDLGDPts.
1Real Madrid2520324763
2Atletico Madrid2419324360
3Barcelona2519335060
4Athletic Bilbao2413561344
5Real Sociedad2512761143
6Villarreal2412481540
7Levante25898-733
8Valencia249510132
9Sevilla24888132
10Espanyol249510-232
11Celta Vigo258611-430
12Granada248313-927
13Almeria257513-1826
14Osasuna247512-1626
15Elche256811-1526
16Getafe257513-1726
17Malaga256712-1125
18Valladolid2541011-1622
19Rayo Vallecano246216-3320
20Real Betis243516-3314
WhoScored.com


The four clubs below are the biggest winners from Saturday's results.

 

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid

Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

Barcelona don't have a great record at the Anoeta lately, but that 3-1 loss to Real Sociedad was shocking. When Lionel Messi canceled out Alex Song's own goal, it seemed that Barca had regained their footing and would roll on from there, or at least hold out for the draw.

Then Antoine Griezmann struck in the 54th minute, and David Zurutuza added an insurance goal five minutes later.

Gerardo Martino admitted after the match that he got his tactics wrong, per Barca's official site:

“I didn’t read the game correctly.”

The manager explained that “having three forwards implies that we wouldn’t be playing with four midfielders. I thought that it was better to line up a double pivot, with Song.” He added: “rotations are good when the results are positive.” When asked about his substitutions after Real had scored their third goal, the manager said that “we didn’t have the necessity to rethink our approach and when we decided to make our first sub, they scored the 3-1.”

Barcelona's loss means that Real Madrid are three points clear atop the table following their 3-0 win over Elche, and Atletico Madrid could join them should they beat Osasuna. Those three points could be massive in a few months.

Madrid have yet to play Barca in the Santiago Bernabeu. With a win in that, the lead would grow to six points, which would likely prove insurmountable this late into the season.

The margin for error is minute when it comes to winning La Liga. A three-point gap may not seem like much, but it's massive when a total in the high 90s is required to be first at the end of the season.

Atletico and Madrid are now in the driver's seat, especially when considering Barca's recent run of league results, per Filippo Ricci of Gazzetta dello Sport:

 

Real Sociedad

Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

The win was also huge for Real Sociedad, as they moved to within a point of fourth-place Athletic Bilbao, with their Basque rivals yet to play in Matchday 25. The difference should grow to four points again, as Bilbao have last-place Real Betis on Sunday.

Regardless, this is quite a turnaround for La Real after the way they started the year, getting unceremoniously dumped from the Champions League group stage without winning a game.

Now Jagoba Arrasate's side is primed for a late-season push and could have a chance to redeem itself in the Champions League next season.

With as well as Real Sociedad can hit on the counter, they're built to bully the lesser teams and withstand the stronger teams.

 

Malaga

MALAGA, SPAIN - AUGUST 25:  Malaga FC head coach Bernd Schuster looks on during the La Liga match between Malaga CF and FC Barcelona at La Rosaleda Stadium on August 25, 2013 in Malaga, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Much further down the table, Malaga maintained a three-point gap on Real Valladolid to stay out of the drop zone. Los Boquerones are 18th in the league playing away from La Rosaleda, so taking a point off Almeria is a solid result.

Betis and Rayo Vallecano seem locked into the relegation zone. Vallecano have the worst defensive record in the league, while Betis are 11 points off Malaga in 17th.

That leaves one spot up for grabs. The 12th through 18th clubs are all within five points, so there's still a lot of movement to come.

For now, though, Malaga ensured that they're one step closer to avoiding relegation.

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