The Spanish Segunda División (AKA LaLiga 2 or LaLiga SmartBank) returns next week with 45 minutes in Vallecas on Wednesday night followed by four fixtures on Friday 12th June kicking off a busy period which, as is the case in LaLiga, will see 11 matchdays played in the space of little more than a month. The need for play-offs to decide the final promotion place will ensure the second tier season runs for a little longer than the top flight, with the play-off final set to conclude on Sunday 2nd August. Here’s the 2019-20 Segunda División story so far.
by Mark Sochon – @marksoc1
2019/20 Segunda División – The Key Battles
The Automatic Promotion Battle
Realistically, there looks to be at the very most six teams in with a chance of finishing in one of the two automatic promotion positions.
Leaders Cadiz have been the pace-setters throughout most of the campaign. At one point they threatened to run away with this league, winning 10 of their opening 12 fixtures. However the Andalusians’ promotion bid has stuttered significantly since with just 6 wins from 19 in the league since that fabulous start. Victory over 3rd placed Almeria in their most recent home game has helped get their title charge back on track to some extent but it’s not since early autumn that they’ve really convinced. Cadiz have also been hit with a two window transfer ban which (if it is upheld) will make it very tough for them to compete in the top flight should they go up.
⚽️ We have a date to play again!
On Sunday June 14 at 21:30 we will host @RayoVallecano at the Carranza!
? The match can be watched on @vamos#VolverEsGanar ???? pic.twitter.com/4zMdF72srF
— Cádiz CF ???? (@Cadiz_CFEN) May 31, 2020
Zaragoza are only a point further back and look well placed to end a seven year absence from the top flight, their longest spell in the lower leagues since the early 1950’s. The momentum was certainly with them heading into the unexpected break to the season. Zaragoza were in 10th after matchday 16 but are unbeaten in the league in 2020 with the Colombian Luis Suárez enjoying a prolific season in front of goal.
If Zaragoza certainly didn’t want any interruption to the season, one team who may just benefit from having a chance to regroup and go again are big-spending Almeria. Under the new ownership of wealthy Saudi Turki Al-Sheikh, they’ve spent around €18 million on new players this season, an extraordinary sum at this level. Former Real Madrid midfielder Guti was appointed as their coach in November but the pressure was really starting to build on the Almeria boss with his side taking just 2 points from 6 games between late January and the end of February. They did respond with a thumping 4-0 win over Depor in their final match before the lockdown but the pressure will still be on Guti and his players when the season resumes, with Almeria currently five points off the automatic promotion places.
While Almeria look the side best equipped to deny the current top two automatic promotion, the sides from 4th to 6th cannot be completely discounted. Huesca and Girona both dropped out of the top flight last season but are making strong pushes for an immediate return. The latter have Segunda top scorer Cristhian Stuani in their ranks with the 23-goal Uruguayan having scored over half of his team’s total. 6th placed Elche won back-to-back matches prior to the break to just creep into the automatic promotion picture but realistically they will struggle to overhaul a 9 point deficit to 2nd over the remaining 11 fixtures and may be more focused on trying to make the play-offs.
The Race for the Play-Offs
The top two look assured of at the very least a play-off spot. Almeria and Huesca also look to have built up a significant enough advantage to feel confident that they should at least have a shot at promotion via the play-off system – which will still consist of two-legged semi-finals and final as usual. However a host of teams beneath the top six will believe that a good run of form could propel them into serious promotion contention and the likes of Girona and Elche will be looking over their shoulders.
If nothing else, this extended break to the season may prove a great leveller and it could just come down to who has managed to maintain fitness levels the best and which teams can quickly adapt to the new normal of football behind closed doors. That could just open a window for a team like Alcorcon or Ponferradina to make an unexpected charge for the top flight.
Overall though, Mirandes, Sporting Gijon and Rayo Vallecano look the teams most capable of breaking into the top six over the remainder of the campaign. Mirandes’ extraordinary run to the Copa del Rey semi-finals underlined the quality they possess in their ranks and with just 1 defeat in their last 12 league games too, they have already proven they are capable of handling the extra demands of playing two games per week, something which all Segunda clubs are going to have to adapt to over the next month or so.
A point and a place further back are Sporting Gijon who are hoping to end a three-year hiatus from the top flight. They were also coming into a bit of form with 3 wins from their last 4 league games, including a thumping 4-0 victory over Las Palmas in their most recent outing.
⏱ ¡GOLEADA y VICTORIA! El @RealSporting logra el TRIUNFO ante la @UDLP_Oficial. #LaLigaSmartBank
Real Sporting 4-0 UD Las Palmas pic.twitter.com/bAsT5yDk6H
— El Chiringuito TV (@elchiringuitotv) March 8, 2020
Rayo Vallecano meanwhile are the other team that dropped out of the top flight in 2019. Despite the continued war between club president Martín Presa and the fans, Rayo have been competitive on the pitch, with what at times has been a uncharacteristically conservative Paco Jémez, hoping to guide them back to the top flight. They also have the benefit of a game in hand after their game with Albacete at Vallecas in December was controversially abandoned after visiting forward Roman Zozulya was subjected to ‘Nazi’ chants from Rayo fans. The Second Half was due to be completed behind closed doors in February but was postponed again and will be the first action as the Segunda restarts – taking place on June 10th.
The middle part of the Segunda División is incredibly congested with just 7 points separating Mirandes in 7th from Deportivo La Coruna in 19th – the highest of the relegation places. It’s what makes this a fascinating league in many respects as we get ready to restart with so many teams still in with a shot at promotion but also not out of the woods in terms of relegation.
The Relegation Scrap
|19th||Deportivo La Coruna||31||35|
The relegation battle at the very least involves the entire bottom half of the Segunda Division and even the teams currently ranked 7th to 11th could fall into the thick of the scrap with a slow start after the resumption of the season. The bottom end of the league features a number of big clubs, many of whom have until recently been relatively established top flight outfits but currently find themselves battling to avoid the nightmare of relegation to the Segunda B.
The two standout names are Malaga and Deportivo La Coruna, two clubs that have both made Champions League quarter-finals this century. They occupied the bottom two positions in the league at one point in October and both looked in real danger of relegation. Despite significant financial problems, now worsened by the impact of the coronavirus, Malaga have steadily improved on the pitch with just 2 defeats in their last 15 league games suggesting they should have enough to beat the drop when football resumes. They somewhat controversially sacked coach Víctor Sánchez in January after an explicit video of him was leaked online but their recovery has continued under the guidance of new boss Sergio Pellicer.
Depor’s Segunda Division season so far is even more bizarre. They won their opening game but none of the next 19 to leave them propping up the table at the midway stage. Then out of nowhere, they won 7 league games on the spin with new boss Fernando Vázquez seemingly finding a cure for their previous woes to even spark talk of the unlikeliest of promotion pushes. However the tide had just turned for the worse at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak with Depor failing to win any of their last 4 matches to leave them in the drop-zone again.
El Dépor arranca la semana en un grupo y con solo Mujaid al margen https://t.co/ZOQV3grZd9 pic.twitter.com/HAp60ekiXz
— RC Deportivo (@RCDeportivo) June 1, 2020
Lugo, Extremadura and Racing Santander are currently with Depor in the bottom four. The latter are 7 points from safety and look set for an immediate drop back to the third tier having won promotion from the Segunda B in 2018/19. Racing have only won 4 times all season but will be hoping that this almost unprecedented situation can somehow work to their advantage.
The positive for the teams currently in the relegation zone is just how many teams could be seen as catchable. The likes of Real Oviedo and Las Palmas are other relatively big clubs who are in real danger of getting sucked into what is set to be a slightly revamped Segunda B next season, with some league restructuring set to take place as a result of the postponement of the lower leagues. Las Palmas though may have the advantage of actually having fans at their games with the club’s president keen to let supporters into their games given the coronavirus situation on the island of Gran Canaria is better than in many parts of mainland Spain.
Fuenlabrada are another team that you sense all of the teams at the bottom will fancy they can overhaul. The South Madrid outfit, in their first ever season at this level, made a fantastic start to the campaign but you have to go back what is now over six months to December 1st for their last league victory – a 1-0 home win against leaders Cadiz. They sacked their promotion-winning coach Mere after their last game with new boss José Ramón Sandoval still waiting to take charge of his first match.
Interestingly none of the current bottom four find themselves in the bottom four of the form table for the last eight games. Fuenla, Las Palmas, Numancia and Albacete fill those positions and will be hoping that the break will have done them some good.
Overall, all the key battles look like they could go to the wire and it promises to be a dramatic ending to the season. We will have match previews for all Segunda games on the first weekend back. Outside of Spain, you can watch Segunda matches live on the official LaLiga SmartBank Youtube Channel.