While both Real Madrid and Barcelona’s seeming return to full strength in readiness for a Champions League assault has captured the attention of Europe, a significant chunk of La Liga’s top flight remains entrenched in an unpredictable battle for the top four.
Having eked out a 1-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao, unfancied Getafe remain just five points off fourth place in eighth, yet are still almost ludicrously long in such a tight battle at odds of 25/1.
Change has been afoot among the favourites, mostly as Malaga extended a winless streak to four league matches with a 2-0 loss at home to Espanyol.
Malaga dominated possession against the strugglers from Barcelona but were unable to recover after going behind with an inelegant mistake from their usually dependable goalkeeper, Willy Caballero.
The indications are that Malaga’s extended Champions League run is taking its toll on a small squad. Either way, Manuel Pellegrini’s men are now down in sixth position and 7/2 shouts for another top-four finish this season.
Valencia, on the other hand, are ticking up the table at the right time, becoming 7/4 joint favourites for the top four after dismissing rivals Real Betis 3-0.
In contrast to Malaga, Valencia’s Champions League exit seems to have already ensured a focus on securing a spot in next season’s competition – and given the experience and talent in their squad, it is a difficult bet to overlook.
To finish in the top four, Los Che will need to dislodge the team with La Liga’s longest unbeaten run – Real Sociedad, who moved into the hallowed fourth spot thanks to a comprehensive 4-1 drubbing of Real Valladolid.
The side from the Basque country boast a polished attacking trio in Antoine Griezmann, Carlos Vela and Imanol Agirretxe, whose forward play has been supported superbly this season by the likes of the full-back pair of Carlos Martinez and Alberto de la Bella.
Under the stewardship of young French coach Philippe Montanier, Sociedad’s confidence appears to have ballooned as they have posted a ten-match run without defeat.
Should they recreate that in the remaining ten fixtures this season, they are set to become a surprise name in next season’s Champions League and can be backed to do so at the intriguing price of 7/4.