Castilla’s objective at the start of the season was to avoid any trouble with the drop zone at the bottom of the table. They smashed the safety target of 40 points effortlessly. The team went on to become top scorers of the group, and flirt with the play-off spots all season long. Last weekend, they finally secured a play-off place after relegating Rápido de Bouzas with a 3-0 result. That means that they are now in with a chance of promotion to LaLiga two for next season. However, the Segunda División B play-offs are absolutely brutal, and if Castilla want to achieve the impossible again this season, then it is going to take everything from them. How do the play-offs work exactly, and what are Castilla’s chances within them? Let’s take a look...
REAL MADRID CASTILLA ARE IN THE 2019 SEGUNDA DIVISION B PLAY-OFFS pic.twitter.com/UcA5cdXOLC— Real Madrid Castilla Stats (@CastillaStats) May 12, 2019
For those of you that are unaware: the Spanish third division, otherwise known as Segunda División B, is split into four league groups consisting on 20 teams. That means that there are 80 teams in the entire league. There are four promotion spots up for grabs. Each group is split regionally, and no team can be promoted directly from the regular season, not even the champions of each group. Instead, they enter one of two play-off segments. There is a ‘champions play-off’ for the teams that finish first in each group, and a ‘regular play-off’ for the teams that finish from second to fourth place in each group. As Castilla still have an absolutely tiny chance of finishing the season as champions next week, we will look at both segments of the play-offs, and how they intertwine. I personally have only ever experienced the champion’s play-offs with Castilla.
The Champions play-off
Each of the four league groups has a champion at the end of the season. In any other league, they would have won the entire competition and depending on the tier - gained automatic promotion, too. Not in Segunda B. The four champions go into the ‘champions play-off’. This is a semi-final like competition, where there are two promotion spots up for grabs. Each team plays each other over two legs, one home and one away. The winners of the semi-final earn promotion immediately, and then get to play each-other in a final for the opportunity to be the league champions. The losers are not yet out, but they do have to then enter round two of the regular play-offs.
Castilla’s two recent examples of this start in 2011/12, when the best Castilla team of all time steamrolled the league, before blitzing the play-offs and being crowned league champions. The second example is one of disappointment, as the 2015/16 Castilla team did brilliantly to win the group, before completely bottling the play-offs. They lost the champions play-off semi-final, before losing in round two of the regular play-offs.
The promotion rate of the Champions play-off is 50% (compared to the regular play-offs’ 14%), and even if you lose - you get another chance. Due to this fact, Castilla should be doing everything they can in the final week to finish first. They do however have the hardest game out of all of their direct rivals, as they play Pontevedra who were looking to leapfrog Castilla up until last week. Still, we know miracles can happen with this team.
The Regular play-offs
As it stands, Castilla will be entered into the regular play-offs. This consists of 12 initial teams (those that finish from 2nd-4th in each group), before extending to 14 as the two losers from the Champions play-off enter round two. To put it simply, there are two promotion available, and three rounds to play. If they are in this play-off, then Castilla will have to win six games to get promoted. Each round is still played over two legs, one home and one away. Here’s a more detailed look into how each round works:
This is the primary round, which consists of the 12 staple teams that qualified for the regular play-offs. They are split into three groups depending on where they finished in the league. The draw is simple. If you finished in second place, you are going to play a team that finished in fourth. The teams that finished in third square off against each other. The winner of each tie over two games progresses on to round two. The losers are out of the play-offs and will play in Segunda B next season. This means that six teams will move on to round two.
The diagram below is an example based on the current tables in Segunda B. Please do be aware that a lot can change during the last game, so the tables may look completely different to these when the season closes next week.
This is the round that the losers from the champions play-off enter. They merge with the six victorious teams from round one to create a quarter-final type structure. League position still does give you an advantage at this point, but it is more of a mixed bag. Each team plays each-other twice as always, and the four winning teams progress onto the final round. The losers again are out of the play-offs and leave with nothing. No diagram needed for this one.
The final four teams enter a semi-final type system. This is the final round, where the two promotion spots come in to play. The objective is simple. Win your tie over two legs, and you will get promoted to LaLiga2. I feel this round is also too simple to need a diagram.
If Castilla do not get first place, then they will be entered into the regular play-offs. If they finish in fourth, then they’ll be against the odds from the off. They would have to play a team that finished second, and at the moment each of the teams occupying those spots look pretty strong. That is why it could be very important to win the last game of the regular season next week, and hope that a rival team slips up. Even finishing one place ahead in third place could mean the world of difference. If Castilla can get through that first round, then they may have a genuine chance at promotion.
What are Castilla’s Chances?
As I have stated numerous times this season, the squad that Castilla currently possess is one of the weakest from recent seasons. Their objective was to avoid a relegation battle, which was something that they had been fighting against for the previous two seasons. I laid out some of the factors behind their surprise success here earlier in the season. I think the main worry in my head at the moment is that the standard in Castilla’s group has been so low this year, that it must have transferred over into the other groups. If this is the case then the teams from the those groups should dominate the proceedings. What chances does this leave for Castilla?
Vinícius Júnior remains primarily registered with Castilla, and began the season with the team. He has, as we all know, go on to do great things with the first team already. He has recovered very well from a recent injury, and looked pretty unfazed in the poor team showing against Real Sociedad on the weekend. The Segunda B play-offs will commence after the first team season has finished. It is reportedly being contemplated by the club to field Vinícius in the play-offs. I am completely behind this notion. The only problems that spring to mind for me is the Copa América, and his potential lack of availability if he is called up for the competition by Brazil. His price tag will also always be a moral dilemma when playing him at this level. I don’t believe there is any need to worry about increased risk of injury, and if you need some peace of mind on this - check Castilla’s recent injury list. Franchu has been the only one to suffer a serious injury this season. Playing Vinícius will give Castilla a genuine chance to beat anyone that they come up against, and as he has contributed a fair amount to Castilla this season, it should be justifiable to bring him in.
It will also be hugely beneficial for all parties involved. Vinícius will be given the opportunity and experience of leading a Real Madrid team in a pressured, win at all costs environment. Castilla get a realistic chance at promotion, and if they achieved that then the benefits for the entire club would be very valuable. Not only could they attract better young players to the club, but the young players already on the books would be competing at the highest level possible with Castilla. Just think of the advantage this would hand players like Rodrygo Goes, who would come into Real Madrid in the second division unlike Vinicus, who had to compete in the third. This is far a more appropriate and significant setting for the clubs extensive plans. Do note that only Vinícius can transfer between teams. No other first team player will even be considered for this. We will see what happens with this in the coming weeks.
The team have been truly excellent this year, and have already achieved what would have been considered the impossible at the start of the season. They are the top scorers of their group, and they have one of the top scorers in the entire league in Cristo González. As I type this out, they can still finish anywhere inside the top four. The squad certainly possesses high levels of quality in every area, so it potentially just boils down to how much they want it when the time comes. Playing Luca Zidane in the play-offs is going to be an area of caution, but if he can replicate his best form this season then it should be okay. Recently they have looked a bit lacklustre, but now they have the added incentive of promotion that should hopefully change. If every player brings their A game, then Real Madrid Castilla can achieve promotion regardless of Vinícius Júnior’s involvement.
The manager has come in and been a breath of fresh air. Whilst the defence has deteriorated and continues to be leaky, the general play and structure of the team has improved leaps and bounds. Past play-offs have proven that the manager is one of the most influential figures during this time period. Is this the time to experiment and take risks? Or do Castilla go with what they know? These questions have been the difference between promotion and glory, and disappointment and unemployment. Manolo has been experimenting with different formations and different players in the past weeks, so something tells me that we could see some risks being taken in the play-offs.
In the past, successful Castilla teams have been granted access to the wonderful Santiago Bernabéu stadium during play-off runs. They have also drawn in pretty decent crowds in the process. This would be an amazing experience for this team, and could serve as a huge moral booster. Scheduling clashes meant that the 2015/16 team could not use the stadium, so there is no guarantee that this will happen. It would be phenomenal if it did, though.
It’s always an exciting time when Real Madrid Castilla reach the play-offs. This one however seems amplified, perhaps due to the added context of first teams failures - and the fact that Castilla themselves were never meant to get this far. Whatever happens, the youngsters have been a revelation this season. Next week we will know which position they will finish in, and which play-off segment they will enter, so it is still all to play for. I hope this play-off guide was helpful to you, in addition to the added section on Castilla’s hopes. If you haven’t caught much of Castilla this season, then now is the perfect time to start ahead of the play-offs. The next article you will see from me will be the Pontevedra match report. Real Madrid can still see success this season. Remember: your club needs you.