surinenglish

A LOOK AT LA LIGA

The final countdown

Sevilla have crept into the running to make it a four-way contest.
Sevilla have crept into the running to make it a four-way contest. / EFE
  • The race for the title in Spain this season is certainly the most exciting in Europe

There are many arguments at the bar contending "the best league in the world"; but nobody can argue against La Liga winning the vote for the most entertainingly chaotic and fiercely contested.

It's now a four-club chase to the championship as Sevilla have gathered momentum and elbowed their way into the picture. Six wins in a run of seven unbeaten games means they are hoping to become the Leicester City of Spain and disrupt the traditionally closed market.

The story comes with comedy value as well as the Andalusian derby with Granada finished then started again then finally finished in slapstick fashion.

As Granada edged the game back to 2-1, the fourth official signalled a minimum of four added minutes. The referee blew his whistle at three minutes. Club officials pointed out the mistake as players exchanged shirts, some raced to be first in the shower and others just collapsed with fatigue.

When Señor Bengotxea acknowledged his mistake, the bemused players had to regroup, fix shinguards and reclaim the swapped shirts. A minute later, the result was official: Sevilla were officially just three points from Liga leaders Atlético having assured their first priority - qualification for the next Champions League campaign.

Coach Julen Lopetegui and his players are proving to be the uninvited guests to an exclusive party. The other three are all part of the European Super League shenanigans.

Sevilla can play for fun and create unrest, while Atlético, Real Madrid, and Barcelona stress the season out.

In this uniquely condensed season, the champions of most top leagues will be the clubs with endurance rather than individual excellence. Sevilla have no stars. It is a collective of driven and well-coached professionals.

This was always the boast of Atlético who have led the race for most of the rounds but look a little heavy-legged. Defeat to Athletic Bilbao leaves them just two points ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Since losing El Clásico and exiting the Champions League, Barça have won three successive games. Antoine Griezmann is leading the charge with five goals in six games. The Catalans also have the advantage of an extra game to play.

Real Madrid have engaged cruise control. They are like a vehicle doing 65 miles per hour in a 70 zone. The club known for glamour and razzmatazz have posted scoreless draws against Real Betis, Getafe and Liverpool. They held Chelsea to a one-one cliff-hanger.

Zidane won't allow his players to step on the gas until he knows which way the road heads after the second leg in London. He's charted this journey many times and generally reaches the destination bang on time.

It promises to be the tightest finish since 2006-07, when Real Madrid edged it on the head-to-head results with Barça. That edition was a marathon ten-month season which started in August and ended late in June. This is the opposite. It was a late September start and will be a mid-May finale.

What happens next? Nobody knows! It could well go down to the final whistle, or even the whistle after that.