By Tim Stannard
Atletico Madrid (3rd)
LaLiga-watchers - and Atletico Madrid fans themselves - have spent the first half of the season being really, really annoyed at the Rojiblancos.
The side as ever, has been a near-permanent fixture in the top-four, half-heartedly threatening to join in the title race before thinking better of it, and grinding out results when required.
But being annoyed at Atletico for all of the above is akin to be annoyed at the quality of a Netflix movie. It is what it is.
Although Diego Simeone will be perfectly happy with being the best of the rest in May, fans are crying out for a little more fun from their attacking talent, spearheaded by Alvaro Morata and Joao Felix and more va-va-voom from the midfield.
Atletico Madrid are having a very 'Atletico' season. Perfectly fine. But could do better if inclined.
Athletic Club (8th)
Beating Barcelona, holding Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu and looking like a solid prospect for a top-six finish. And doing all this with often limited but willing Basque-region players and squeezing everything out of veterans.
Athletic continue to be one of the most impressive sports teams on the planet simply by remaining competitive in a Nascar-speed LaLiga in a 1987 Ford Thunderbird with squeaky doors and reclining seats that have seen a heck of a lot of action.
A huge reality vs. perception problem at the halfway point of the season for Barcelona. Barca are top of the table, top scorers by some margin with 49 goals, have Lionel Messi in the form of his life (again), Antoine Griezmann starting to feel his way into the system and arguably the best goalkeeper in the world with Marc-Andre ter Stegen between the pipes.
Unfortunately, that is not enough for Barcelona fans who want all of the above along with another list – sizzling football, beating teams by five-goal margins, other players to chip in goals aside from Messi and Luis Suarez, a fit Ousmane Dembele, a balanced, fleet-footed midfield, thrusting fullbacks. Basically, they want the Barcelona 2009 to 2019 era which is never going to happen under Ernesto Valverde, or anyone else come to think of it.
Barcelona fans will have to potentially content themselves with just a league title instead.
Celta Vigo (17th)
Goodwill and patience for Celta Vigo really is starting to wear thin. The world got very emotionally attached to the Galician side last season in its successful battle against relegation that was inspired by a blubbing Iago Aspas.
What looks like being an unwanted sequel for a self-destructive Celta side may not be as well received. Think, 'Frozen 2' but with soccer.
Deportivo Alaves (15th)
The pressures of having a stadium that holds just 38 and having Basque rivals, Athletic Club, snapping up their best talent leaves Eibar in a relegation battle for the second half of the season. But Eibar will prevail.
A home draw against Barcelona at the end of the first half of the season may - 'may' being stretched to its furthest possible meaning - signal a change of direction for Espanyol, a team that ended up top of their Europa League group but bottom of LaLiga.
The game was the first of Espanyol's third manager of the season and Abelardo might be able to get the best out of a limited squad and a very limited cluster of failing forwards that have only managed four goals between four this season. Then again, he probably won't.
The 'Always Sunny in Philadelphia' of LaLiga - anarchic, thriving for a lot longer than people realize and still waiting for a grown-up to pull the plug and ruin the fun.
Last season, Getafe came close to a Champions League finish with a teeny, tiny budget and a bare minimum of fans. For the first half of the 2019-20 campaign Getafe are repeating the feat but also balancing it with a so-far successful Europa League campaign, to buck the tradition of the competition being a lingering death sentence for smaller clubs.
For a few weeks Granada’s season was imperiled for being too successful. The newly-promoted Andalusian side had stormed into the top four, beating Barcelona along the way. But then, a lag started to set in. Granada had hit their 10,000 steps target by midmorning and were going to spend the rest of the day watching daytime TV with a cooler of beer.
Just one point was then picked up from five games to send Granada down the standings and potentially surprise entrants into the relegation battle. However, a recent revival should see Granada safe, which was certainly target number one at the beginning of the campaign.
Leganes - Getafe without the glamor - were heading directing towards an F grade and a week of detention with a group of other LaLiga misfits, before embarking on a soul-changing journey with them, John Hughes-movie style.
But then the Mexican maverick, Javier Aguirre, took over from a manager whose name everyone has forgotten already to guide Leganes from absolute relegation certainties to relegation possibilities.
As a warning to rival clubs in the drop-zone, there is nothing...absolutely nothing that Aguirre will not do to keep the side from Madrid's suburbs in La Primera.
Tremendously reliable and comfortably predictable, Levante do what they are perfectly happy to do. And that's have the club's sporting AC temperature spot on, so that the Valencia side is never in too much danger of going down, nor bothering themselves by a fatiguing quest for a European place.
Unlike one of Mallorca’s owners, Steve Nash, the club has been missing far too many three-pointers and that sees the club in real danger of a return to the Spanish second division.
The Pamplona outfit continues to challenge the laws of footballing physics. A second-division strength squad and old-skool tactics should see Osasuna in the relegation zone.
But the club's tradition wham-bam-have-a-battered-shin-pad-while-you're-here-ma'am approach to football sees Osasuna flourishing in midtable, inspired by the nine goals of Chimy Avila.
Real Betis (13th)
Not a good situation when a team's entire season is dependent on a 38-year-old in the form of Joaquin Sanchez.
But that's how Betis are at the halfway point of the season, which is a shame as the Seville side's squad is stuffed with talent, thrills and spills but simply cannot decide if it is really, really bad or very, very good, to leave Coach Rubi constantly under threat of being fired.
Real Madrid (2nd)
Zinedine Zidane’s side have the identical number of points as Barcelona, have scored 13 less goals, also have a dependency on one forward in the form of Karim Benzema, have malfunctioning big stars up front such as Eden Hazard (out of shape / injured), Gareth Bale (injured / golf / out of form), Luka Jovic (still a mystery). However, the vibe around the club from supporters is considerably more perky.
And that’s because Real Madrid are playing way below their capacity, are getting the best of Thibaut Courtois, unlikely to be sacking their manager (again), producing clean sheets and have significant room for improvement in the second half of the season. It’s enough to be fairly optimistic about Madrid’s chances of winning just a third LaLiga title in 12 seasons.
Real Sociedad (5th)
The Basque outfit is LaLiga's best chance of a surprise package breaking into the top four. If the plan does not come to fruition then La Real would have become the neutral’s favorite of the division by combining a homegrown squad – hello Mikel Oyarzabal – with the polishing up of other teams’ cast offs. That list is lead proudly by Martin Odegaard who looked like become Norway’s Freddie Adu but has now played himself into returning to Real Madrid next season, the team that signed him at the age of just 16.
A downbeat assessment would say that whenever Sevilla have gotten themselves into a position to do something interesting and challenge the top two, the side always stumbles. The recent 1-1 home draw with Athletic Club was a case in point. Sevilla had a chance to move to within four points of Barcelona at the top but blew it.
However, a cheerier approach is to say that at least Sevilla are in a position to be able to choke closing down the league leaders. The Andalusian side is undergoing a rebuild under the returning Sporting Director, Monchi, and Julen Lopetegui and a top-four finish at the end of the campaign would actually be a probable overachievement considering the lack of striking power in the team. Looking at you Luc de Jong and Chicharito.
Too many draws. Check.
Chaos behind the scenes. Check.
Largely underwhelming. Check.
Welcome to another season for Valencia, a team that started at its traditional snail's pace, almost imperceptibly sped up, fired a popular manager (we still miss you, Marcelino) much to the Mestalla squad's annoyance and are now hoping for a burst of speed in the second half of the season to barge into the Champions League places to take advantage of the predictable Sevilla collapse.
Rinse and repeat for Valencia.
Although it is months past the acceptable date for any Game of Thrones references, Valladolid remains the Winterfell of LaLiga. Cold, unwelcoming, but sturdy enough to withstand the onslaught of a potential relegation fight with Ronaldo the First leading the way as club’s majority owner.
For quite some time this season, Villarreal really weren’t doing that well at all. Unfortunately, that didn’t really peak the attention of too many as Villarreal’s status as top-four fighters has dropped off of late.