• Analysis

Evaluating fight for fourth place in La Liga

La Liga Villarreal Valencia Atletico Madrid Athletic Bilbao
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Atletico Madrid have stuttered in 2019-20 Spanish top flight campaign leaving a host of clubs with an outside chance for a top-four finish.

A lot rode on the outcome of Atletico Madrid’s crunch La Liga clash with Barcelona. The hosts needed a result to solidify their top-our credentials. While Barcelona required the points to wrestle top spot away from arch-rivals Real Madrid.

It was a Lionel Messi masterclass which separated the two sides in the end. Koke’s restless outing would count for nothing, neither would Oblak’s performance between the sticks.

The home loss continues the harrowing Primera Division results for Los Rojiblancos as they slipped out of UEFA Champions League qualifying slots for the first time. However, their poor run of form goes back to September.

Diego Simeone’s men have failed to finish matches and their inability to get over the line has come to haunt them. The Capital club have a tough fight on their hands as eleven teams vie for European competition.

Eleven teams with a chance

You have to go back to 15th place in La Liga to separate the pretenders. Real Valladolid have 18 points to their name, eight points adrift of fourth placed Real Sociedad. With 24 matches to play for, anything can happen.

Atletico had gone ten matches without a defeat, and have only conceded 10 goals this season. But their inability to score on the other end has been their downfall. Athletic Bilbao are in a similar position.

They have scored a goal more and conceded one less than Atletico, but their frugality in front of goal will be their ultimate downfall

Granada, Levante, Real Betis and Alaves all have a chance, but they are vulnerable at the back. They concede far too many goals while their attacking output is sub-par life the aforementioned duo. However, it will be their inability to score which will eventually put them out of the race.

In Getafe, Valencia, Osasuna and Villarreal we have teams who can genuinely push for European competition slots. The quartet have proven their ability to test the scorers regularly while keeping clean sheets in the process.

Villarreal the anomaly

Out of the four sides, Villarreal have the best claim if they can plug their defenses. The Yellow Submarine have scored the third most goals after Barcelona and Real Madrid, but have the fourth worse defensive record. They have shipped in 24 goals, more than the combined results from Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.

With the greater portion of season to follow, La Liga is primed for an intense battle for top-four slots.