El Centrocampista

Let the games begin – Spain’s Segunda B goes to the play-offs

If you were contemplating a bit of a breather following the completion of another record breaking season in La Liga, please think again. The second division is coming nicely to the boil and with five matches still to go, there is still a lot to play for at either end of the table. And then there are the play-offs. Not just those to decide the final promotion place to the top tier, but the rather convoluted process of finalising promotion to the second division.

Many of you will be aware that the leagues below the top two divisions are regionalised. Segunda B, or the third tier is split into four groups of twenty teams, but with just four places available in La Segunda, a series of play-offs ensue.

The current structure sees the champions of each of the four regional group’s play-off for two of the places in La Segunda. The winners of these two-legged ties win promotion, whilst the losers receive a second chance. Whilst the group winners are battling it out, the second, third & fourth teams from each of the four groups play two-legged ties on an inter-regional basis, so that this pool is reduced to six. These six teams are joined by the losers from the champions group and these teams play a straight two-legged knock-out competition until there are two teams remaining. These two teams win promotion to La Segunda.

Phew! If it sounds complicated, don’t worry, all will become clear as the play-offs progress. The draw for the first round of matches took place yesterday in Madrid and as one would expect, it has thrown up some very interesting ties. First of all, let’s have a look at the pairings in the champions group.

Cadiz CF vs Real Madrid Castilla – Cadiz won Group IV of Segunda B and was rarely stretched in a division that was reduced by two teams at the halfway point following the demise of Sporting Villanueva & Poli Ejido. As a result, Cadiz has played two fewer matches than Castilla. The club has played in La Primera as recently as 2006 and is renowned for having some of the most dedicated supporters in the country. They will undoubtedly create a fantastic atmosphere in the first leg at the renovated Estadio Ramón Carranza, where Castilla will be exposed to match-day pressures they not experienced all season in Group I. Castilla won their division by 14 points, and whilst it is difficult to compare one division to the next, I would say that Castilla are slight favourites. Where the second leg will take place is open to debate. By Spanish standards, Cadiz has a decent travelling support, so the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano may have make way, with the return tie taking place at the Santiago Bernabéu.

CD Mirandés vs Atlético Baleares – Copa giant-killers Mirandés has not allowed the disappointment of a semi-final exit to derail their season. With just two defeats in Group II, they collected more points than any of the other finalists and are unbeaten in 16 matches going into this tie. Their home form has been particularly strong, with just two defeats in 25 league & cup matches at the Estadio Anduva this season. Atlético Baleares was the surprise winner of Group III, after a low finish in the league in 2010-11. They had the lowest points total of any of the group winners and must be considered as outsiders for a return to La Segunda, a division they last graced in 1963. Two factors may just play in their favour. Atlético play on an artificial pitch, a surface that Mirandés has not encountered all season. Add to that their opponents historical woes in the play-offs and the islanders have a glimmer of hope, but only the faintest glimmer.

This weekend also sees the start of the play-offs for the clubs that finished second, third & fourth in their respective leagues. These twelve clubs will battle it out over two legs and the remaining six teams will be joined by the losers from the champions play-offs. Here is a look at this weekend’s other six ties

Albacete Balompié  vs Orihuela CF – Fourth in Group I takes on second in Group III. Albacete squeezed into the play-offs despite some indifferent performances in the last couple of months of the season. Their appearance has as much to do with Real Oviedo’s melt-down as their own results. Orihuela on the other hand is unbeaten in eight and I’d take the take from the far south of Valenciana to win the tie.

CF Badalona vs CD Tenerife – Badalona won eight of its last ten matches to take fourth place on the last day of the season. Two years ago, Tenerife was playing in La Primera, and whilst second place would be considered a plus for most clubs, Tenerife’s form has been terribly inconsistent. If Badalona can take a lead into the second leg, the team from the Canarias could crack.

SD Amorebieta vs RB Linense – A year ago, Amorebieta won the Tercera in Euskadi, its first ever national title. A year on and this village team based 10 miles east of Bilbao is half a dozen games from the second division. Form since the turn of the year has been impressive and their miniscule Campo Urritxe has been a fortress, with just one defeat at home all season. Real Balompedica Linense also boasts great current form and I expect the team who play in the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar to prevail in a very tight tie.

Real Jaén CF vs SD Ponferradina – Jaen’s late season push saw them qualify for the play-offs with a week to spare. Any other year, and Ponferradina’s record might have won the league. The team from the east of Castile-León are particularly strong away from home and I pick them to beat Jaén over two legs.

Huracán Valencia CF vs Lucena CF –  Credit where credit is due. Not too many people were convinced by Tony Hernandez’s plan to create a third club in Valencia, but 10 months after forming Huracán, here they are in the play-offs. After a mid-season blip, Huracán won 8 of the last 10 matches to grasp third place on the last day of the regular season. Also new to the play-offs is Lucena CF, who boosted by a new stadium, qualified comfortably in third place. Both are a bit of an unknown quantity, but I think Huracán just about hold the edge in a very close tie.

CD Lugo  vs SD Eibar – Both clubs have experienced the pain of losing in the play-offs in recent years and whilst both qualified with relative ease, neither side is as strong as it was last season. Lugo pushed Castilla for top spot for much of the season, but without a win in five, form is a very real concern. Eibar went about their business very efficiently, losing just one game at home all season. Whilst recent form has been patchy, I think they will have enough to reach the next round.

I’ll be back to provide updates throughout the play-off season and don’t forget, you can get detailed club and stadium histories of all the participants in the play-offs by visiting www.estadiosdeespana.blogspot.

One Comment

  1. Chris Clements

    16 May, 2012 at 11:21

    Er… Yeah, I know, Ponferrada is in the west of Castile-León! Sometimes I don’t know may arse from my elbow, so don’t take my predictions as gospel

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