Analysing the La Liga title race: What does head-to-head really mean?
The Spanish La Liga, like most of the top leagues in Europe, is made up of a total of 20 teams with each team facing each other twice. Every team in the Spanish top flight division plays 38 league matches in a single season, and the team with the highest number of points at the end of the season wins.
A win is awarded three points, a draw gives you one point while you get none for a loss.
Right now, Atletico Madrid are leading the table with 88 points to their name having won 28 matches, drawn 4 and lost 4. They have a three-point lead over Barcelona who sit second on the table with 85 points. Real Madrid, with a match in hand, are five points behind the Rojiblancos.
Interestingly, none of the three teams managed to secure all the three points available last weekend. Atletico Madrid succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of 10th placed Levante, while both Barcelona and Real Madrid drew their matches against Getafe and Valencia respectively.
A look at Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid’s chances of winning the league
Mathematically, the league is Atletico Madrid’s to lose. If they manage to beat Malaga at the Vicente del Calderon and Barcelona at Camp Nou, Diego Simeone’s men could be holding the trophy they haven’t held since 1996 at the end of the season.
To be more specific, Atletico Madrid can’t be caught by either Real Madrid or Barcelona if they even manage a win or a draw from the two matches because unlike in England, LigaBBVA follows the head-to-head rule instead of the team’s goal difference as the tie-breaker in case of two or more teams finishing on the same number of points.
So how exactly does the head-to-head rule apply here?
If two teams are tied on points, then their head-to-head record will come into the picture. Atletico Madrid will benefit in this scenario if they are tied with Real Madrid since they won the first game 1-0 and drew the second 0-0.
If Atletico Madrid are tied with Barcelona on points after they face each other on the final day, then that match’s result will have a say since the reverse fixture was a 0-0 draw. If this game also ends in a draw, then the team which has cored the most goals over the course of the season will win the title.
The RFEF has explained the rule in Chapter 4, Article 296.2 of their Relgamento General which says:
If at the end of the championship, the result is two clubs drawing, the winner will be the club with a greater goal difference (the sum of goals for and against from the two matches played between them); if there is still no difference, the winner will be the club with the greater goal difference from the whole competition; if the goal difference is identical, the champion will be the club that has scored the most goals.
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