Deportivo Alaves and Villarreal face uphill battle to survive in pro Spanish top flight

The newbies will have to work hard to ensure their maiden season in rebranded Liga Ellas doesn’t turn from a dream to a nightmare next term, writes Martin Whiteley.

Source: @CVFFemenino

The marathon Spanish women’s league season finally wrapped up with Deportivo Alaves and Villarreal’s fairytale promotion to the Primera Division confirmed at the weekend.

It’s been a long road to a division that already consisted of more teams than the other top leagues in Europe. But the decision to promote two sides from the 2019/20 Covid-19 interrupted campaign — without relegating any of the participating top-flight sides — just added to the numbers.

Four sides would be relegated this time around — Deportivo La Coruna, Espanyol, Logrono, and Santa Teresa — so with two sides being promoted the number of teams would revert back to 16 for the next campaign. 

There will, however, still be some changes when the players return to the field for the 21/22 season. First of all, the league will be rebranded as Liga Ellas, turn professional, and taking their place at the top table for the first time will be Deportivo Alaves and Villarreal.

Deportivo started life in the second tier under the name of CD Gasteizko Neskak, who had played at that level the previous season before the clubs merged ahead of the 2017/18 campaign. They managed an-11th placed finish in their group in their first season before following that up by claiming the second position.   

With this season starting later than usual, the decision was made that both the North and South divisions of the Segunda Division would be split into two groups. The top four in each section would contest the two promotions places.

Deportivo won Group B in the North with 37 points from their 16 games. Despite losing two of their eight crossover games with the teams from Group A, they still managed to narrowly secure their place in the top flight for next season. 

Group A only had eight teams in it, so those sides played two games less than the Group B outfits. This was compensated for by using points per game average (PPG) to determine the winner. Deportivo ending with 2.29 to Osasuna, who finished with 2.25.

Following their promotion, the club announced that they will set up additional social media and communication options for the women’s team independent of the men.

Since Villarreal began competing in the 2001/02 season, they have predominantly been a second-tier outfit. 

This term they took top spot in Group B in the South with 41 points from their 16 contests. Even with back-to-back defeats to end the crossover games, Villarreal were still able to secure their top-flight place as they ended with 2.29 PPG compared to Albacete’s 2.04.

The top league has shown it can be an extremely unforgiving place to reside in for any new side that is not fully prepared. Newly-promoted Santa Teresa went straight back down and the other new team, Eibar, had a very narrow escape.

Get the balancing act right and suddenly you can have a season full of memories that will last a lifetime and take the club in a direction that was once only a dream. Make a few mistakes and very quickly each match becomes a recurring nightmare that is hard to wake up from.  

Follow Martin on Twitter at @673martin

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