Real Madrid’s calamitous season took another turn for the worse again this weekend as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Espnayol – who are odds on for relegation at 9/10.
You can now back Real at 15/2 to bridge the 13-point gap to Barcelona, who in turn are 7/100 favourites to reclaim the Primera Division title after trouncing second-placed Atletico Madrid 4-1, with a customary Lionel Messi brace taking his astonishing 2012 goal tally to 90.
Although in truth, on recent form, a Mayan apocalypse looks more likely to stop Barca marching to the title than a sluggish Madrid side.
Conceding a late equaliser from a set-piece against Espanyol was the mark of a club that is increasingly failing to get the basics right – Juan Albin’s leveller was the eighth time this term that Los Blancos have conceded from a dead-ball situation.
The bwin bookies assume that Real and Atletico Madrid will both finish in the top four, but with Jose Mourinho struggling to put a lid on the crisis at the Bernabeu, even that seems a little presumptuous.
The slim chance of things getting so bad that Real slip out of the Champions League quartet (they are currently five points ahead of fourth-placed Malaga) makes for some interesting betting options on the other top four contenders.
Malaga, who take on Real at La Rosaleda this weekend in the final game before the winter break, are 9/4 favourites for the final top-four spot after winning three of their last four La Liga games.
A pair of 4-0 home wins over Valencia and Granada and a 2-0 win at Sevilla have banished some doubts about the quality of Manuel Pellegrini’s current crop.
Former Barcelona veteran Javier Saviola has made a useful contribution to Malaga’s attacking threat with three goals in his last six games.
However, the club will desperately want to keep young midfield sensation Isco – who is rumoured to be a target for Real in the January transfer window – if they are to mount a serious top-four charge.
Real Betis, level on points with Malaga, are priced at 4/1 despite a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo on Monday that makes their away record better than than that of Real Madrid.
Levante currently sit one point behind that pair and can be backed at 6/1 for a top-four finish. A 1-0 victory in Zaragoza on Sunday was the side’s second victory in a row as they approach the winter break in confident form.