Genuine title races are in scarce supply across Europe’s big leagues this season, but scrambles for Champions League qualifying positions are certain to provide plenty of nail-biting moments in the remaining three months of the campaign.
The battle for the Primera Division top four is one of the most intense. After Malaga were beaten 3-0 at Real Betis on Sunday, there are a mere 11 points between Manuel Pellegrini’s men in fourth and Espanyol in 14th spot.
Valencia are the current 11/10 favourites to claim the all-important spot behind Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, perhaps because the club’s record of qualifying for the Champions League for three successive seasons should prove invaluable with a tight run-in expected.
Given the sheer number of contenders for that coveted fourth place, there is some decent value elsewhere though.
Incumbents Malaga are 9/4 shots, but their current position in the table needs to be weighed against a number of concerns.
The most pressing is their poor performance on Sunday, a run-in that sees them visit Real Madrid and Barcelona in the last three matches of the season and the fact that they need approval in the courtroom to make next season’s Champions League a possibility after receiving a one-year ban.
Fifth-placed Real Sociedad seem to have more momentum in their top-four push. Given that they have lost just one out of their last 15 La Liga matches, a price of 9/1 against Sociedad bridging the two-point gap to fourth by the end of the season seems a bargain.
A win at home to Real Betis this weekend – who sit seventh and are also 9/1 shots for the top four but have suffered some indifferent form of late – might see Sociedad’s odds cut further.