Featured Matches
Previous
Aston Villa
Newcastle United
0
0
FT
Game Details
Chelsea
Leicester City
2
0
FT
Game Details
Everton
Arsenal
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Sevilla FC
Valencia
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Guingamp
Marseille
0
0
LIVE HT
Game Details
Ipswich Town
Norwich City
0
1
FT
Game Details
Aston Villa
Newcastle United
0
0
FT
Game Details
Chelsea
Leicester City
2
0
FT
Game Details
Crystal Palace
West Ham United
1
3
LIVE 90' +3'
Game Details
Southampton
West Bromwich Albion
0
0
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Swansea City
Burnley
1
0
FT
Game Details
Everton
Arsenal
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Malaga
Athletic Bilbao
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Granada
Deportivo La Coruña
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sevilla FC
Valencia
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Almeria
Espanyol
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Eintracht Frankfurt
SC Freiburg
1
0
FT
Game Details
FC Cologne
Hamburg SV
0
0
FT
Game Details
Hannover 96
Schalke 04
2
1
FT
Game Details
Hertha Berlin
Werder Bremen
2
2
FT
Game Details
TSG Hoffenheim
FC Augsburg
2
0
FT
Game Details
Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Guingamp
Marseille
0
0
LIVE HT
Game Details
Bastia
Toulouse
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Lille
Lorient
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Montpellier
Metz
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Nice
Bordeaux
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Stade de Reims
Caen
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Ipswich Town
Norwich City
0
1
FT
Game Details
Blackburn Rovers
AFC Bournemouth
3
2
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Brentford
Birmingham City
1
1
FT
Game Details
Brighton & Hove Albion
Bolton Wanderers
2
1
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Derby County
Fulham
5
1
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Huddersfield Town
Charlton Athletic
1
1
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Middlesbrough
Sheffield Wednesday
2
3
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Millwall
Rotherham United
0
1
LIVE 90' +3'
Game Details
Nottingham Forest
Reading
4
0
LIVE 90'
Game Details
Watford
Leeds United
4
1
LIVE 90' +1'
Game Details
Wigan Athletic
Blackpool
1
0
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Cardiff City
1
0
LIVE 90' +3'
Game Details
Barnsley
Gillingham
4
1
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Bradford City
Peterborough United
0
1
LIVE 90'
Game Details
Colchester United
Doncaster Rovers
0
1
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Fleetwood Town
Chesterfield
0
0
FT
Game Details
Leyton Orient
Walsall
0
0
FT
Game Details
Milton Keynes Dons
Coventry City
0
0
LIVE 90' +1'
Game Details
Port Vale
Notts County
0
2
LIVE 90' +3'
Game Details
Preston North End
Oldham Athletic
1
0
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Rochdale
Bristol City
1
1
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Sheffield United
Crawley Town
1
0
FT
Game Details
Swindon Town
Crewe Alexandra
2
0
LIVE 90' +1'
Game Details
Yeovil Town
Scunthorpe United
1
1
FT
Game Details
Accrington Stanley
Luton Town
2
2
LIVE 89'
Game Details
AFC Wimbledon
Hartlepool United
1
2
LIVE 90' +1'
Game Details
Bury
Plymouth Argyle
2
1
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Cambridge United
Morecambe
1
2
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Carlisle United
Southend United
1
1
FT
Game Details
Dagenham & Redbridge
Mansfield Town
2
0
FT
Game Details
Exeter City
York City
1
1
FT
Game Details
Newport County
Burton Albion
1
1
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Northampton Town
Shrewsbury Town
1
1
LIVE 90'
Game Details
Oxford United
Portsmouth
0
1
LIVE 88'
Game Details
Stevenage
Wycombe Wanderers
1
2
LIVE 90'
Game Details
Tranmere Rovers
Cheltenham Town
2
3
LIVE 90' +1'
Game Details
Alfreton Town
Wrexham
2
3
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Bristol Rovers
AFC Telford United
1
0
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Chester City
Halifax
0
3
FT
Game Details
Dartford
Torquay United
0
0
FT
Game Details
Dover
Eastleigh
2
1
LIVE 90' +1'
Game Details
Gateshead
Grimsby Town
1
5
LIVE 90' +3'
Game Details
Lincoln City
Braintree Town
3
2
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Macclesfield Town
Kidderminster Harriers
0
0
FT
Game Details
Nuneaton Town
Barnet
0
2
FT
Game Details
Southport
Altrincham
2
1
FT
Game Details
Welling
Woking
1
1
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Celtic
1
0
FT
Game Details
Dundee United
Ross County
2
1
FT
Game Details
Kilmarnock
Motherwell
2
0
FT
Game Details
Partick Thistle
Hamilton Academical
1
2
FT
Game Details
St Johnstone
Aberdeen
1
0
FT
Game Details
St Mirren
Dundee
0
1
FT
Game Details
Edinburgh Univ
Hurlford Utd
0
2
LIVE HT
Game Details
Hawick Royal Albert
Newton Stewart
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cowdenbeath
Alloa Athletic
0
3
FT
Game Details
Hibernian
Falkirk
0
1
LIVE 90' +1'
Game Details
Queen of the South
Livingston
1
1
FT
Game Details
Raith Rovers
Heart of Midlothian
0
4
FT
Game Details
Rangers
Dumbarton
4
1
LIVE 87'
Game Details
Ayr United
Forfar Athletic
2
0
LIVE 90' +2'
Game Details
Dunfermline Athletic
Airdrie United
3
0
FT
Game Details
Peterhead
Greenock Morton
1
2
FT
Game Details
Stenhousemuir
Stirling Albion
4
5
FT
Game Details
Stranraer
Brechin City
2
2
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Albion Rovers
East Fife
2
0
LIVE 90' +4'
Game Details
Berwick Rangers
East Stirlingshire
5
0
FT
Game Details
Elgin City
Clyde
1
0
FT
Game Details
Montrose
Annan Athletic
2
0
FT
Game Details
Queen's Park
Arbroath
0
2
FT
Game Details
Osasuna
Barcelona B
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Valladolid
Mallorca
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Recreativo Huelva
Real Zaragoza
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Las Palmas
Llagostera
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Numancia
Sporting Gijon
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Atalanta
Pisa
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Varese
Virtus Entella
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Palermo
Modena
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Perugia
Spezia
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Bari
US Avellino
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cagliari
Catania
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Fortuna Düsseldorf
Karlsruhe
0
2
FT
Game Details
Nurnberg
FSV Frankfurt
0
1
FT
Game Details
Dijon FCO
AJ Auxerre
1
0
FT
Game Details
Willem II Tilburg
AZ Alkmaar
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Heerenveen
Excelsior
5:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Go Ahead Eagles
Dordrecht '90
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Maritimo
Academica de Coimbra
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Paços de Ferreira
FC Porto
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sporting Lisbon
Arouca
7:30 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Ufa
Spartak Moscow
1
2
FT
Game Details
Zenit St Petersburg
FK Amkar Perm
2
0
FT
Game Details
FK Rubin Kazan
CSKA Moscow
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Kerkyra
Panthrakikos
4:15 PM GMT
Game Details
OFI Crete
Panetolikos
4:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Olympiakos
Niki Volos
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Standard Liege
KVC Westerlo
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
KV Kortrijk
KV Oostende
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Lierse SK
Royal Charleroi SC
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Zulte-Waregem
Mouscron-Peruwelz
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
SK Sturm Graz
Wolfsberger AC
2:30 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Magna Wr. Neustadt
FC Trenkwalder Admira
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
SV Josko Ried
SV Grodig
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
SV Salzburg
SC Rheindorf Altach
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Malmo FF
IFK Norrkoping
3
0
LIVE 86'
Game Details
Stromsgodset
Stabaek
2
3
FT
Game Details
Valerenga
SK Brann
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Ballinamallard Utd
Glentoran
1
0
LIVE HT
Game Details
Cliftonville
Glenavon
0
1
LIVE HT
Game Details
Dungannon Swifts
Ballymena
0
2
LIVE HT
Game Details
Institute
Linfield
0
1
LIVE HT
Game Details
Portadown
Crusaders
0
0
LIVE HT
Game Details
Warrenpoint Town
Coleraine
0
2
LIVE HT
Game Details
New York Red Bulls
Montreal Impact
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Toronto FC
Chicago Fire
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Columbus Crew
Houston Dynamo
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
New England Revolution
Chivas USA
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Sporting Kansas City
DC United
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Los Angeles Galaxy
Vancouver Whitecaps
2:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Cruz Azul
Queretaro
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Veracruz
Guadalajara
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Monterrey
Puebla
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Pachuca
Atlas
1:06 AM GMT
Game Details
Chiapas
America
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Airbus UK
Port Talbot
Postp
Postponed - new date to be confirmed
Game Details
Carmarthen
Rhyl
1
0
FT
Game Details
Newtown
Bala Town
1
2
FT
Game Details
New York Cosmos
Minnesota United FC
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Indy Eleven
Ottawa Fury FC
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Carolina RailHawks
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
San Antonio Scorpions
Atlanta Silverbacks
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Gimnasia La Plata
Rosario Central
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Newell's Old Boys
Belgrano de Córdoba
8:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Independiente
Vélez Sarsfield
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Sarmiento de Junín
Huracán
6:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Santamarina
Unión de Santa Fe
7:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Argentinos Juniors
Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy
9:15 PM GMT
Game Details
San Martín de San Juan
Instituto de Córdoba
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Necaxa
Lobos BUAP
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Zacatepec
Altamira
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
At. San Luis
Mérida
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Celaya
Irapuato
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Atlético MG
Internacional
9:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Botafogo
Chapecoense AF
9:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Palmeiras
Coritiba FBC
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Avaí
Santa Cruz FC
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Goianiense
Sampaio Correa-MA
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Náutico
América RN
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Paraná Clube
Bragantino
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Portuguesa de Desportos
Ceará
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
ABC
Vila Nova-GO
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Luverdense
Joinville
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Universidad de Chile
Huachipato
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Ñublense
O'Higgins
7:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Unión Española
Universidad de Concepción
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Antofagasta
Municipal Iquique
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Sud América
Nacional
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Tacuarembo
Fénix
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Fortaleza CE
Uniautonoma
8:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Aguilas Doradas
Patriotas F.C.
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Atlético Nacional
Envigado
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Independiente Santa Fe
Alianza Petrolera
12:45 AM GMT
Game Details
Los Caimanes
Cienciano del Cusco
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Nacional
3 de Febrero
8:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cerro Porteño
Guaraní
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Emelec
El Nacional
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Independiente del Valle
LDU Quito
Postp
Game Details
Aragua
Mineros
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Deportivo La Guaira
Estudiantes de Mérida
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Deportivo Anzoategui
Deportivo Petare
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Club Petrolero de Yacuiba
Bolívar
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sport Boys Warnes
Universitario de Pando
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Blooming
Universitario de Sucre
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Shimizu S-Pulse
Kashima Antlers
1
3
FT
Game Details
FC Tokyo
Urawa Red Diamonds
4
4
FT
Game Details
Vantforet Kofu
Gamba Osaka
3
3
FT
Game Details
Albirex Niigata
Tokushima Vortis
1
2
FT
Game Details
Nagoya Grampus Eight
Kashiwa Reysol
1
1
FT
Game Details
Omiya Ardija
Sagan Tosu
1
3
FT
Game Details
Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Cerezo Osaka
0
0
FT
Game Details
Vissel Kobe
Vegalta Sendai
2
1
FT
Game Details
Yokohama F. Marinos
Kawasaki Frontale
2
0
FT
Game Details
Santos
Carmelita
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Universidad de El Salvador
Santa Tecla
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Aguila
CD FAS
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Universidad de San Carlos
Penarol
9:35 PM GMT
Game Details
Petapa
Coatepeque
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Vida
Victoria
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
FC Kansas City
Portland Thorns FC
ESPN2 5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Next
Atletico MadridAtletico Madrid
Real MadridReal Madrid
1
0
ESPN3 FT
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
Jan 16, 2006

La Liga half-term report

With this weekend marking the official half-way stage of the season, it's time to take home the half-term report, and to get either a pat on the head or an admonition to face the music.

For the sake of originality however, I'll do this neither alphabetically nor on the basis of league positions, but rather on the more novel basis of 'surprise factor' - that is to say, with the most surprising top, and the least surprising bottom. Using that as the starting point, all the usual stuff should get dragged in. However, it's obvious that 'top' and 'bottom' are not necessarily positive or negative criteria in the following league table. Just thought I'd mention that.

1. Osasuna

The obvious choice for top spot. Last season's worst defenders, they plummeted down the 2004/05 league after a promising start - something that was widely predicted this year, especially after their immediate (and expensive) exit from the UEFA cup at the hands of Rennes.

Pablo Garcia's move to Madrid hardly presaged a better season either, but they've confounded everyone. Despite losing at improving Valencia this weekend, they've been the only side able to vaguely hang onto Barça's coat-tails, lending this season's league a semblance of competition.

Cuellar and Josetxo have been rocks at the back, with Puñal and Raul García lending a strong local flavour to a tough-tackling midfield. Webó up front has scared people with his pace and strength, and Milosevic is always likely to both make and score goals. Will they continue to surprise? The prediction for the second half sees them falling off a little, but finishing with a Champions League place for the first time in their history.

2. Athletic Bilbao
Second for all the wrong reasons. Despite several years of mis-management, principally at boardroom level, and obvious discontent at management level (Ernesto Valverde never said why he left, but was obviously fed up), nobody ever expects Athletic to wither on the vine. The Lions have been roaring in the top flight since 1928, and have rarely looked like falling from this richly deserved grace. But everything went pants from the beginning of this season, with new manager Mendilibar - the 'new Ferguson' according to Athletic's cerebrally-challenged president Fernando Lamikiz - sacked after a couple of months.

Athletic won their opening game at home to neighbours Real Sociedad, but then failed to win for the next three months. The return of the old messiah Clemente has given them some backbone, but little in the way of fresh tactical ideas. Joint bottom with Alavés at half-term, it seems inconceivable that they will finally go down - but stranger things have happened. Prediction? To improve marginally, thus avoiding the drop.

3. Betis
Not only did the 'cucumbers' make it to the Champions League on last season's showing, they also played some excellent stuff in getting there. Less surprising than their immediate exit from the competition (in which they still managed to beat Chelsea) has been their awful league form - perhaps best attributed to the old syndrome of being unable to cope on too many fronts and to the injury of the excellent striker Oliveira, by far and away their key man last season. Without his runs and his imaginative forward play, Joaquin has gone from inconsistent to anonymous, Assunçao seems to have lost his touch and no-one is scoring goals.

Prediction? The win this weekend at home to Atlético Madrid may lift morale for the second half of the season, but the squad suddenly looks oddly thin. There'll be a small improvement, but they might go down. Let's say they'll just scrape it.

4. Celta
Promoted last season, most journalists were tipping them to struggle, but a second-game win in the Bernabéu seemed to set the tone of self-belief which has seen them maintain a more than decent start and finish half-term in seventh position, three points from a Champions League berth. The secret has been in the home form, with the majority of wins (7 from 9) picked up in Balaídos, but several commentators have complained that their play has been consistently unattractive.

The club seem fairly unconcerned about such views, but remain more preoccupied with the lack of points away from home, especially after such a promising start. Prediction? Form to deteriorate somewhat, but first-term showing should protect them from a free-fall.

5. Getafe
Like Celta, with whom they drew at home this weekend, most people had written them off before the season began - but predicting their demise was the lazy man's choice. Bernd Schuster's teams always do well in their first-terms and anyway, the side from Madrid's suburbs had shown enough spirit last season to suggest that they would be no pushovers.

Finishing 13th last season has not proved unlucky for them this time around, in their second spell in the top flight, and indeed they led the table for three weeks in September, attracting enormous media attention, much of it centred around their dynamic little forward, Daniel Güiza. Despite dropping off a little after their splendid start, they sit in 10th spot at the half-way stage. Prediction? They'll continue to drop, but will survive to fight a third season in the elite.

6. Espanyol

Most folks thought they'd do ok after last season's excellent fifth spot finish, but trouble over the summer between manager Lotina and the president, and early-season behavioural wobbles from the seemingly re-born Ivan de la Peña seemed to derail the team. Keeper Kameni, so often the hero last season, has suddenly become erratic and Maxi Rodriguez' move to Atlético Madrid seemed to cause damage in the engine-room. Raúl Tamudo sticks doggedly to the task up front, and Lotina has miraculously avoided the sack after a slight improvement in results, but beneath the surface, things still seem awry.

Prediction? They'll continue to struggle, and avoid relegation by the skin of their false teeth.

7. Racing Santander
Began predictably, and looked to be heading for the relegation spots, but this time to stay. However, they've surprised everyone by a sudden surge in spirit and form, beginning with an outrageous win at the Bernabéu, achieved with seven first-teamers absent.

They're 11th at the half-way stage, and you can sense the relief at a club that lost its best players in the summer (Benayoun, Javi Guerrero and Reguiero). Still, as their most committed supporters would admit, with Racing you just never know. Prediction? To finish just above the relegation spots.

8. Cádiz
Since they have never quite given a convincing impression of having fully adjusted to life back among the elite, it's something of a surprise to see them outside the danger zone at this stage, in 15th place courtesy of two recent consecutive wins.

The problem is surely that although the defence has looked surprisingly tight, the lack of goals remains a problem , with too much weighing on the shoulders of the veteran Oli, and not enough from the useful but inconsistent Sesma. But they have a wonderful fan base, and something about their grit and enthusiasm suggests they might just hang in there. Prediction? To escape the drop - just.

9. Villarreal
Now on five games without a win, they haven't quite managed to live up to the image they built last season, finishing an amazing third and qualifying for the Champions League. They're not doing badly (they lie sixth) and of course carry the merit of having qualified for the next stage of the Champions League, but they don't have quite the same spark as last season, possibly due to Forlan's rather quieter start.

But in Riquelme, they have possibly the world's greatest midfielder, a player who guarantees that the mainly modest squad around him are all inspired to follow his lead. Prediction? To improve, and finish once again in the top four.

10. Atlético Madrid
It seems something of a joke to state that their awful first-term showing is a 'surprise', but they make tenth position in this table because there were some observers, this columnist among them, who thought that this season would finally see them fulfil their famous promise. But the infamous dark horses have stayed in the dark and confounded most predictions by stuttering to a mere 20 points. And all this with a side that contains genuine quality in Kezman, Ibagaza, Perea, Torres and Petrov.

Manager Bianchi has finally been given the chop, and as in the Bernabéu, the reserve team manager has been brought in as a temporary measure, to soothe the open wounds. Spain's Manchester City par excellence, it's impossible to say how much more can go wrong at the club before they finally get their act together. Nevertheless, I'll stick my neck out and tip them to improve. Expect them to challenge for a UEFA place, and to just squeeze in at the last moment.

11. Real Madrid
It was hardly unreasonable to assume, back in September, that the great white leviathan would improve on last season's showing. They had, after all, kept their admittedly dodgy manager over the summer and brought in four players of substance in Ramos, Garcia, Robinho and Baptista. Owen's departure seemed of little import, but then Ronaldo's injuries and general attitude declined, Robinho and Baptista failed to deliver, Zidane was missing in action, and no-one seemed to know what to chalk up onto the drawing-board.

Internal disputes were papered over rather thinly, Luxemburgo went on his way and the recent improvement may yet prove to be a chimera. Sergio Ramos has been the only positive note, and Cassano seems an unlikely solution. Benito Floro may be a sensible addition to the backroom team, but the jury's still out on this 'transitional' squad.

Predicition? Will continue to stutter, but still have the quality to scrape a Champions League place for next season.

12. Alavés
Despite the turmoil that Dmitri Piterman seems to bring in his wake, and despite the fact that it was always going to be tough on their return to the top flight, the squad has decent enough players to pull up to a position of safety. The problem has been their almost laughable inability to win at home, but as in this weekend's excellent win at Deportivo, players like Bodipo and Aloisi are capable of taking them out of the relegation zone.

Prediction? You get the feeling that under new management, the second term will be a better one. Piterman may well survive the fans' recent vote of no confidence, simply because to further rock the boat at this stage may be of no benefit to anyone. To improve, and finish around 15th.

13. Valencia

Most people expected them to really fall away this season, largely because they mistrusted Mista - seeing him as a one-season wonder, and because signing Patrick Kluivert smacked of desperation. Baraja had disappeared from view, Cañizares was looking more vulnerable, and the fragile Carlos Aimar, despite his wonderful talent, has never been able to play more than three consecutive games without being crocked.

What no-one had seen was the emergence of the excellent David Villa, signed from Zaragoza. The revelation of the season, he is not only dragging up the team by its bootstraps and scoring important goals, he is also looking as if he might be a leading light in Germany come summer. As ever, just when all seems lost at Valencia, someone comes along and breaks through the fog. Prediction: They're too tough to dismiss. Runners-up.

14. Deportivo
Nobody was too sure after last season's bad-tempered decline, but Joaquin Capparós has given the side new steel. Losing Luque, Fran, Silva, Donato and Pandiani looked too much to bear, but despite this weekend's set-back at home to Alavés, they look more of a unit than last season. If Valerón can get his act together more consistently, they might yet return to the Champions League. Prediction: They'll challenge, but will settle for a UEFA spot.

15. Real Sociedad
The only surprise is that they lie 13th after such a wretched start. Their half-decent home form belies their poor performaces away (the worst in the league) and they have shipped more goals than anyone. In severe financial difficulties, and plagued with injuries and star-player losses (Nihat, Kovacevic, Aranburu, Brechet), they may soon begin to plummet. Prediction: Relegation.

16. Sevilla
Only doing slightly worse than at this stage last season. Lots of hot air and promise from their boardroom has not resulted in anything more than a decent eighth spot at this stage, mainly built on their mean defence. Unlikely to set the league alight this year and still feeling the pinch from the exodus of so many fine players. Prediction: Mid-table finish.

17. Zaragoza
Up and down like the proverbial jack-in-the-box this season, a recent run has seen them climb to a flattering ninth position. Nevertheless, the Milito brothers are proving a success, and Villa's absence is not quite so great as was predicted. Their problem remains one of inconsistency and a group of over-demanding supporters who are fed-up with manager Victor Muñoz. The atmosphere never seems too good in the Romareda. Prediction: A lower finish to the second term - maybe around 14th.

18. Barcelona
The only surprise - and there aren't many to be recounted this season, is that they have not only managed to maintain their excellent form of last season but have gone on to improve it. If anything they're more entertaining, and despite a serious injury to such a key player as Xavi, they've carried on regardless, totting up a record first-term haul of points, and finishing the first half of the season on a run of seventeen consecutive wins in all competitions. Simply awesome, but can it last? Erm, yes. Prediction: Champions - and to beat Chelsea.

19. Mallorca
In 18th position, so no surprises there. A dull team, with a dull manager, Arango produces occasional moments of inspiration, but no-one would miss them if they went down. Prediction: Relegation.

20. Málaga
Even less surprising that they're struggling. Hovering just above the danger zone, they fail to inspire confidence. Salva can still knock them in, but the overall squad looks thin. They look likely candidates for the drop at this stage.


  • Phil is a published author of some repute and we're very lucky to have him here on Soccernet. If you want to own a real-life Phil Ball book, you can purchase either An Englishman Abroad, Beckham's Spanish Adventure on that bloke with the ever-changing hairstyle, White Storm, Phil's book on the history and culture of Real Madrid and his splendid and acclaimed story of Spanish football, Morbo.

  • If you've any comments for Phil, email the newsdesk