Barcelona further built on the stratospheric gap between themselves and title rivals Real Madrid last weekend with a sensational 3-1 win at Malaga, while the champions were held to a dismal 0-0 draw at basement club Osasuna.
Goals from Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Thiago were enough to give the Catalans a priceless victory at La Rosaleda, while Real’s poor form continued as they were unable to breach a stern home rearguard in Pamplona.
Barca remain nailed-on 1/100 shouts for the Primera Division title at the season’s halfway stage after maintaining their 11-point advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid, who were 2-0 winners over Zaragoza at the Vicente Calderon.
That the leaders’ odds haven’t been reduced further is probably a reflection that there is little space for them to go before the bwin bookies pull the title market, with Real now as long as 33/1 and Atletico rated as 40/1 outsiders..
Meanwhile, Real Betis moved up into fourth place following a 2-0 win over Champions League qualification rivals Levante and Malaga’s loss to Barcelona.
Betis saw their top-four odds cut further from 9/2 to 5/2 as a result., with Levante’s lengthened to 9/1 from 13/2.
In-form striker Ruben Castro netted his 11th goal of the season in the win over Levante, sparking speculation he is set for a call-up to the Spanish national squad.
Continuity has been a key to Betis’s success this season, with the same front two that helped the club gain promotion to the top flight in 2010/11, Castro and Jorge Molina, also starting at the weekend.
The top-four race has the look of one that might go down to the wire, but despite defying expectations so far, Pepe Mel’s side appear solid enough to stay in the mix. Betis’s away record is, remarkably, the second best in the league after Barcelona.
Importantly, the prospect of a bid for Champions League qualification might convince in-demand players like defensive midfield linchpin Jose Canas and playmaker Benat to stay at the Seville outfit until the end of the season.
And if that is the case, those 5/2 odds on Betis clinching a top-four berth could provide a great shot at a decent return come May.