Sevilla, Valencia & The Chaotic Race For La Liga Survival
Both Sevilla and Valencia are heavyweights when it comes to the world of Spanish football. The former has won the UEFA Europa League a record six times, with all their successes coming since 2006. The latter were the last team outside of the current big three - Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid - to lift the Spanish title, with former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez leading the club to glory back in 2004.
This season, however, both clubs find themselves in the relegation battle. Valencia currently occupy the third and final relegation spot down to the Spanish second tier, while Sevilla’s disappointing 2-0 defeat away at Getafe on March 19th left them just two points ahead of their rivals and well and truly embroiled in the relegation dogfight. Bovada’s best March madness oddsmake both sides contenders to go down, but how did it get to this point?
Just over a decade ago, Valencia boasted one of the best teams in Spanish football. They had the likes of striking sensation David Villa, as well as two of Spain’s finest-ever playmakers, namely David Silva and Juan Mata. But ever since the club began to half-heartedly build a new stadium, the club has fallen into financial ruin.
The Nou Mestalla remains half-built, despite construction beginning all the way back in 2007. The original plan for the stadium was a state-of-the-art amphitheater that could host up to 80,000 spectators at any one time. In 2023 however, those plans have been scaled back so that the stadium will be able to hold just 54,000 seats, some 25,000 less than originally planned and just 6,000 more than their current stadium can accommodate.
Naturally, as resources have been plundered into the new stadium project, and as the project has dragged on for almost two decades, the quality of Valencia’s squad has evaporated. Gone are the days of Villa, Silva, and Mata, and instead manager Voro must now rely on an aging Edinson Cavani and AC Milan reject Samu Castillejo to get him results. And as they are currently staring into the abyss of second-tier football, it's safe to say that those results aren’t coming.
While Valencia appear to be crumbling, Sevilla have managed to remain steady, at least on the continent. They are through to the last eight of the UEFA Europa League and they could well lift the trophy in that competition for an unprecedented seventh time. Should they do that, they may very well become the first team to play in the Champions Leagueas well as the second tier next season.
The Andalusians still have a competitive squad on paper. The likes of Alex Telles, Lucas Ocampos, Ivan Rakitić, Jesús Corona, Youssef En-Nesyri, Jesús Navas, and Erik Lamela are all on the payroll at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. The club has also seen off the likes of Fenerbahçe and PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League, which makes their domestic plight all the more baffling.
As things stand, Sevilla are just doing enough to keep their heads above the water. They’re two points clear of the drop zone and should have enough quality about them to successfully avoid the dreaded trap door. But more displays such as the one against Getafe recently - which saw the club part company with its manager- and they will find themselves further embroiled in the ongoing scrap.
It isn’t just Sevilla and Valencia that are currently involved in the mother of all relegation tussles. No fewer than seven teams are battling to maintain their La Ligastatus, and all seven outfits are separated by just three points. As the season is well and truly entering the home stretch, any two of those seven sides will face the axe.
As things stand, rock bottom Elche are all but relegated. They have picked up just 13 points all season and are 14 points away from safety. They would require the greatest of escapes in order to survive.
Directly above them are Almeria and Valencia. That pair is level on 26 points and currently occupies the final two relegation spots. One point ahead of them and if the season was to end tomorrow would be safe from the drop is Espanyol.
Three teams are then tied on 28 points, with Cadiz, Real Valladolid, and the also aforementioned Sevilla currently just doing enough to cling to their Spanish top-flight status. Then, one point ahead of those three is Getafe, who are picking up results on a regular basis, unlike the rest of their relegation rivals.
As the season reaches its climax, we are still no closer to determining who will face the drop this season. If it is indeed Valencia that suffers relegation, they may very well cease to exist as a footballclub altogether courtesy of the lack of money they will receive as a second-tier outfit. Let's hope for their sake and the sake of Spanish footballas a whole. Los Ches managed to survive, but at whose expense, we are yet to find out.