Spain’s second tier has 22 teams, each team plays one-another twice in a season. After these 42 games are played, two teams will have gained automatic promotion and four teams will suffer relegation. Six games remain on the LaLiga SmartBank calendar – the playoffs.
Playoffs are where dreams are made, and hopes are shattered. Triumphing through the first two-legged tie secures a place in the final where another two-legged tie is played. The winner of the final gains promotion to LaLiga Santander, the greatest league in the world.
The playoffs kick off today and ahead of these matches we look back at some of the most iconic matches these playoffs have seen.
Top 5 best moments
5) CD Numancia score at the death
The semi-finals in these playoffs can be as tense as the finals, as they are two well-matched teams facing off over two legs. In 2018, Numancia triumphed over Real Zaragoza, and it went right down to the wire.
The first leg started with a flurry of early goals, Zaragoza scoring after four minutes and Numancia equalising a minute later. That game ended 1-1. It looked like the second leg was going to have the same result.
In the 64th minute, Numancia took the lead for the first time in the tie, Iñigo Pérez scoring before they were pegged back 15 minutes later, by Zaragoza centre back Mikel González.
The game looked destined for extra time, until the 93rd minute, when centre mid Pape Diamanka found himself space for a free header, which he placed beyond the keeper. Heartbreak for Zaragoza but jubilation for Numancia as they advanced through to the final.
4) RCD Mallorca’s epic come back
In 2019, Mallorca faced off against RC Deportivo in a much-anticipated playoff final. Mallorca had been relegated to the third tier two seasons prior and were looking for back-to-back promotions. Deportivo had different ideas and got off to a comfortable 2-0 lead in the first leg.
Mallorca knew they had to chase the game and start off quickly, and they did just that; scoring in the 23rd minute through their striker Budimir. They added on a lovely second goal just after the hour mark as Salva Sevilla tucked a freekick in off the post.
The packed-out home crowd urged the team forward, even tennis star Rafa Nadal was in the stands. With eight minutes left on the clock a terrific strike from Abdón Prats flew passed the keeper and secured Mallorca the comeback and their iconic back-to-back promotions.
3) Córdoba CF defy the odds
In a rare occurrence where a B team finished in the top six (Barcelona B finished third) Córdoba qualified for the playoffs despite finishing seventh in the 2013/14 season. With Albert Ferrer at the helm, there was a strong belief in this Córdoba side.
After making it past Murcia on a 2-1 aggregate victory, Córdoba lined up to face UD Las Palmas in the final. Then, following a testy 0-0 draw at home, Córdoba travelled to a packed out Las Palmas stadium in front of 30,000 home fans.
The pressure was high, and the atmosphere was electric, even more so after Las Palmas took the lead 10 minutes in to the second half.
All looked lost for Córdoba until stoppage time, when a deep ball was lofted to the back post in the 93rd minute. Left back, Raúl Bravo, got an outstretched leg on the ball to force it towards goal. This wrong footed the keeper and Ulises Davila bundled it home and sent the away fans, players and coaches into raptures as they clinched promotion at the death.
2) Last gasp winner for UD Almeria to clinch semi-final
Eight years ago in 2013, Almeria were facing Las Palmas in the semi-final and, after finishing third, Almeria were the clear favourites.
However, Las Palmas came with a game plan to frustrate Almeria, and they succeeded. After going 1-0 down early in the first leg, Las Palmas held strong and managed to score a vital equaliser with only five minutes left on the clock. In almost a carbon copy of the first game, Almeria took the lead, this time on the hour mark, before Las Palmas scored a late equaliser to force extra time.
Often in these situations the favourites will crumble under the pressure. A goal for Las Palmas would have all but secured the win for them. However, it was the underdogs who shot themselves in the foot, as they received a red card with three minutes to go in extra time, Javi Castellano with a second bookable offense.
Almeria continued to pile on the pressure. The 121st minute saw a moment of magic from substitute Carlos Calvo. After a long ball to the corner of the box, Calvo lobbed the ball over onrushing keeper, expertly brought it down and laid off the striker, Charles, who went on to lash the ball into the back of the net with the keeper out of sight.
Almeria then went on to smash Girona 4-0 across two legs in the final, with Charles netting a further three goals.
1) Granada CF’s epic and tense playoff campaign
This year they made it to the Europa League quarter final, but 10 years ago their only focus was gaining promotion to LaLiga for the first time in 35 years.
After 22 years in the third tier of Spanish football, Granada shocked Spanish football fans by finishing fifth in the league upon their return to LaLiga SmartBank. They won 18 of their 42 matches and were good value for their playoff berth.
They faced a tricky RC Celta side in the semi-final. A familiar face for Premier League fans, Michu, scored in the first leg to give Celta the advantage. However, Granada won 1-0 on their home turf, thanks to a Fabián Orellana goal. This game went all the way to penalties and Granada clutched up and won 5-4.
In the final, Granada faced another tense matchup, this time against Elche CF. They drew 0-0 in a timid first leg, and Granada travelled to Elche and took the advantage. In a terrific season for Granada, Odion Ighalo (who later in his career went on to play for Watford and Manchester United) gave Granada the lead after 23 minutes.
It was a tense game, but this was a vital away goal. Elche equalised with seven minutes left. Elche were relentless when chasing a winner, knowing a draw was not enough due to the away goal ruling. Granada hearts were in their mouths and even more so after the referee added five minutes on.
They weathered the barrage and clinched promotion for the first time in 35 years, and they could not have done it in a more tense fashion.