17th place, La Liga
By Daniel Rubens
For the vast majority of its history, Getafe Club de Futbol has been a nomadic side wandering the Spanish lower leagues, slowly growing but never really turning into a top-flight threat. That’s changed over the past decade and a half, as Los Azulones — the Deep Blues — have consolidated themselves as, if
All the good work that’s been done, however, can change in the blink of an eye this weekend. Getafe’s current run in the top division, the first and only in their history, is in serious danger, and the squad from the suburbs of Madrid needs to come up with a result this Sunday to extend their La Liga lives.
Getafe Football Club, as it was originally called, was first formed in 1924, though they didn’t gain any traction, as the club eventually folded and Spain collapsed into a civil war and World War II. When the club was re-founded in 1946 as Club Getafe Deportivo, it again did so as a small, local side.
There were small, but significant, steps forward for the club over the next decade, as they reached the third division in the Spanish pyramid in 1956-57 and nearly gained promotion to the second the following year, losing to Almeria in a promotion playoff. But their steady progression stagnated, as the club would spend the ensuing decade bouncing between the lower tiers, with the Tercera Division remaining the highest level they reached.
The club moved into a new stadium in 1970 after another promotion back to the third tier, and Los Azulones finally established themselves in the division. They finally earned their first promotion to the Segunda Division in 1976, but their time in the league was difficult, as Getafe finished worse than 10th six years in a row. That all culminated in a disastrous 1981-82 campaign in which Getafe won just five games to finish dead last in the second tier, but the bigger problem was off the field, as the club was unable to pay its players and was subsequently liquidated.
Los Azulones began their trip back to respectability immediately, as what was left of the old club merged with two smaller sides in the city, one of which had originally been formed by a group of Real Madrid supporters from Getafe (essentially a large neighborhood south of Madrid’s city center), to form the current iteration of Getafe Club de Futbol. This new club was placed in a regional league and quickly began the steep climb back to relevance, earning promotion in four straight seasons before reaching the Segunda Division B, where Los Azulones remained for seven years. They finally made it back to the second tier in 1994-95, but they would be sent back down two years later and continued to bounce between the two leagues for most of the remainder of the decade and into the new millennium.
Then, in 2003-04, Getafe enjoyed its greatest success yet, finishing second in the Segunda Division to earn promotion to La Liga for the first time ever. Under the leadership of Josu Uribe, Los Azulones lost a league-low six games en route to promotion.
Uribe wasn’t around to reap the benefits, however, as he was replaced by Quique Sanchez Flores for the 2004-05 season. Getafe would fight for and earn safety in the top flight, finishing in a relatively comfortable 13th place, just four points out of a berth in a secondary European competition, and also reaching the final 16 of the Copa del Rey.
Thus began a period of highs for Los Azulones. Flores left after that season for Valencia, his former club, and was replaced by former Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid midfielder Bernd Schuster. During each of his two seasons in charge, Getafe continued to improve, finishing ninth both years and making it all the way to the Copa del Rey final in 2006-07 after a sensational 4-0 second-leg semifinal win over Barcelona. They would lose in the final to Sevilla, but the run to that contest gave Getafe a berth in the 2007-08 edition of the UEFA Cup.
After Schuster left for Real Madrid, Michael Laudrup
Despite their heartbreaking defeat, Getafe seemed a club on the rise, one that would turn into a competitor for Spanish glory over the next few seasons. That never really materialized, however. Los Azulones reached the Copa del Rey final again that season, losing to Valencia 3-1, but the next season was a poor one as Getafe narrowly avoided the drop. They would bounce back with a very good 2009-10 campaign, coming in sixth — their best-ever La Liga finish — and making the cup semifinals, but they fell back down the following campaign, getting dumped from the Europa League group stage and finishing 16th in La Liga.
They’ve never really rebounded from that season, as Getafe haven’t finished above 10th since. While they did reach the Copa del Rey quarterfinals last season, this year has been a trying one for Los Azulones. Getafe entered 2016 on the back of three straight La Liga draws and proceeded to win three contests in a row to move into 10th place, but a 3-2 loss to Granada on January 23 began a string of seven consecutive losses and 13 games in a row without a win. After losing 5-1 to Real Madrid on April 26, things were looking dire, as Getafe sat at the bottom of the table with three road games in their final five fixtures.
Now, heading into the final weekend of the season, Getafe are holding onto safety by the skin of their teeth. They lead 18th place Gijon on the better head-to-head record between the two, which made the tie they earned last weekend against Sporting so vital. Rayo Vallecano is still in the thick of things as well, sitting just a point behind the pair. There’s one safe spot to be had between the three teams, but if Getafe can win at Real Betis — which would be their third straight away win — 17th place will be theirs. Anything else would open the door for either of their challengers, with the pair playing home games at the same time as Getafe on Sunday afternoon. It’ll be a dramatic day in the fortunes of all three clubs, and a huge one as well, and if Getafe can take advantage of the tenuous lead they currently have, they’ll remain in La Liga. One thing is certain: there will be drama to be had at the bottom of Spain’s top flight this weekend.