Those who talk about La Liga becoming polarised between a magnificent big two or three, occasional talent at other major clubs and an uncompetitive rump have been given plenty of evidence by the way this season is developing.
Champions-elect Barcelona continue to march on at the top – despite a few streaky performances of late – with an imposing 12-point lead, while the two big Madrid sides look head and shoulders above the rest of the league.
Rather disappointingly, at the exact time of the season you would expect some plucky bids to escape relegation, the bottom four in La Liga have somehow not managed to win a single game between them in any of their last five matches.
Bottom of the heap are Deportivo, who sit eight points off safety and are a mere 9/50 for the drop. Unfortunately, the club’s financial woes seem to have sapped morale on the pitch and five defeats on the bounce leave things looking bleak for the historic La Coruna club.
Things appear almost as hairy for Mallorca, just two points ahead of Deportivo. A bad habit of conceding from set pieces has helped to lumber the club with just one win from their last 19 La Liga matches makes them 1/4 relegation shouts.
Celta Vigo – who make up the current bottom three and are four points adrift of safety – have more reason to hope with 3/4 relegation odds.
The Galicians have appointed Abel Resino as manager this week in a bid to get the club out of trouble. A six-pointer at home to Resino’s old club, Granada, this Sunday could prove pivotal to their chances of surviving their first season back in the top flight.
Resino just about managed to guide Granada to safety last season and the Andalusians, for their part, have enjoyed an upturn in form under their new manager, Lucas Alcaraz, and with some winnable home matches in their run-in they have a good chance of being fine.
There is a reasonable defensive platform for Resino to build from at Celta, with the club conceding as few goals at home this season (nine) as both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Granada remain 9/4 relegation chances but I am just as worried about the prospects of Real Zaragoza, who sit one spot outside the relegation zone.
Zaragoza – 3/1 for the drop – are without a win in seven, despite the sentiment being that performances have been better than those results suggest.
With Barcelona, Real, Atletico and Valencia all visiting Zaragoza before the end of the season though, they will have limited opportunities to chalk up some vital home wins.
Osasuna, 13/4 relegation candidates, are showing some fight right now with three wins from their last five league matches, while Athletic Bilbao – level on points with Granada – look far from certain to survive despite being 15/2 outsiders to finish in the bottom three.