Could this be the new match for fourth place in La Liga?

Could this be the new match for fourth place in La Liga?

Could this be the new match for fourth place in La Liga?

Over the past three seasons, the top four of La Liga have been somewhat predictable.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are the top three, while Sevilla have obtained exclusive possession of fourth place and last place for the qualification to the Champions League.

While that may ultimately still be the case in 2022-23, a shaky start for Julen Lopetegui’s men has seen them claim just one point from their first four games as they sit in 17th place.

Predictably, the initial run in Spain saw Madrid and Barca set the pace, although two other teams that had promising starts met on Sunday at Estadio Benito Villamarin.

Ahead of Real Betis-Villarreal, Stats Perform has considered whether city rivals Sevilla and the Yellow Submarine can compete for a spot in the top four this season.

Betis have shown steady progress over the past few seasons, having finished 15th in 2019-20. Then came Manuel Pellegrini, who saw them rise to sixth place the following year, and fifth last season, as well as winning the Copa del Rey.

Pellegrini’s impact was impressive at Los Verdiblancos, leading them from flirting with relegation to fighting for European places and winning a trophy, and they too have given a promising start to this season.

The victories against Elche, Mallorca and Osasuna gave them nine points out of nine, before a narrow defeat at the home of Real Madrid, champions of Europe and Europe.

They also got off to a winning start in their Europa League campaign on Thursday, winning 2-0 at HJK.

Betis have not finished ahead of rivals Sevilla since 2017-18, but with the platform they have given themselves in the first weeks of this season, perhaps it is time for their fans to dream again.

As for Villarreal, they made an even more impressive start, winning three and drawing one of their first four league games.

Unai Emery’s men also have yet to concede goals in La Liga, with flawless victories against Real Valladolid, Atletico and Elche accompanied by a 0-0 draw at Getafe.

Indeed, Villarreal are the fourth team to keep clean sheets in each of the first four games of a La Liga season in the 21st century, following Celta Vigo in 2001-02, Barcelona in 2014-15 and Real Madrid in 2015-16.



Like Betis, Villarreal also had a good start in Europe, although strangely they were a little more enthusiastic than in the league, beating Hajduk Split 6-2 overall to qualify for the Europa Conference League, before scoring. a 4- 3 thriller at home against Lech Poznan on Thursday in their first group stage match.

The Castellon club had a similar trajectory to Betis, finishing 14th in La Liga in 2018-19, before moving on to fifth (2019-20), seventh (2020-21) and seventh (2021-22).

Villarreal actually had the third best goal difference in the league last season behind Madrid and Barca (+26), although they finished third at 12 points and four places behind Atletico despite having a better GD than four.

Under Emery’s leadership, they also added an impressive European campaign to their resume last season, beating Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League semi-finals, where they scared off Liverpool in the return before losing 5-2 overall.

This suggests that the components are all there for an effective and dangerous team, they just need to distribute their goals between matches and avoid the kind of collapse at key moments that saw them relinquish control of the draw against Liverpool in the second half to El Madrigal in May.

However, Emery will have to overcome a barrier to ensure success at home and abroad.

His record of four Europa League wins with Sevilla (three) and Villarreal is remarkable, but in every year he has lifted the trophy, his teams have never finished above fifth place in the league, which is also the place in whose Arsenal side made it to the Premier League when they were beaten by Chelsea in the 2018-19 Europa League final.

His Sunday opponent Pellegrini was less successful in European competitions but has a Premier League title to his credit from his time at Manchester City, as well as Ecuadorian and Argentine league titles much earlier in his career. .

Borja Iglesias’s goals will be important, especially with Juanmi injured, with the former having already scored four in four games, while keeping Nabil Fekir in the transfer window will also seem like a new signing. There is also, of course, the experience of the evergreen, in several senses, Joaquin at 41 years young.

Villarreal can aim to build their success on the solid defense of Raul Albiol and Pau Torres, while Dani Parejo continues to manage things in midfield, and similarly to Fekir for Betis, keeping Samuel Chukwueze should be a big push, especially after his delightful goal against Lech Poznan.

Of course, Sunday’s clash is only the fifth game of the season, and there is plenty of time for either team to quit or push further, while other sharks are likely to try to shoot as the campaign progresses.

However, it will be an interesting point of reference and perhaps a prime indicator of who might be the team to chase for anyone who isn’t the usual top three.

Or who knows? Perhaps what Madrid, Barca and Atletico need to worry about.

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