FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - March 19, 2023 Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior reacts as coach Carlo Ancelotti looks on

The La Liga table since the World Cup: Real Madrid 5th, Valencia last…

The La Liga table since the mid-season World Cup makes interesting reading. Barcelona are unsurprisingly fifth, but reigning champions Real Madrid are as low as fifth and no side has taken fewer points than fallen giants Valencia.

Spanish champions-elect Barcelona, who haven’t won the La Liga title since 2019, have maintained their strong form since their players returned from Qatar.

After losing 3-1 to old rivals Real Madrid in October, Xavi’s side ended the first stage of the season in fine fettle, reclaiming the top spot after winning five league outings in a row.

They returned to domestic action with an underwhelming 1-1 in the local derby against Espanyol, but have since won 10 of their last 11 matches to open up a massive 12-point lead at the summit of La Liga.

They’ve taken four more points than any other side since the World Cup to strengthen their grip at the top of the table.

Even more impressively, they’ve conceded just four goals in 12 matches since the World Cup and are on track to register the best defensive record in the history of the major European leagues.

Meanwhile, eternal rivals Real Madrid are as low as fifth. Atletico Madrid, Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad have all won more points since the World Cup.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have won just half of their league outings since returning to action, though they did win the Club World Cup and progressed past Liverpool with an impressive 6-2 aggregate comeback victory in the Champions League Round of 16.

“January has cost us a lot because after the World Cup it was difficult for us to recover our condition,” Ancelotti told reporters following Madrid’s costly 2-1 defeat to Barcelona.

“But we are going to finish the season well. Today the game was good, with a good approach, with good changes.”

As poor as Los Blancos’ form has been in recent months, they still look set to comfortably finish in the top four, having taken considerably more points than the chasing pack in the first four months of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid, who were fifth when the season took a break in November, look set to qualify for the Champions League yet again after refinding their form.

Real Sociedad and Real Betis look set to do battle for fourth place and there’s only a point between them since December.

Elsewhere, Celta Vigo have caught the eye. Managed by former Swansea and Sheffield Wednesday coach Carlos Carvalhal, Los Celestes have shot up from down near the relegation zone up to the safety of midtable thanks to the contributions of wonderkid Gabri Veiga.

They’ve taken 22 points from 12 matches since the season resumed – only Barcelona and Atletico have more.

Valencia’s plight also stands out. Sacking Gennaro Gattuso has failed to turn their form around. They’ve lost nine of their last 12 matches and have picked up just seven points – no side has fewer over the same period.

They’ve picked up even fewer points than Elche, who are 14 points adrift at the bottom of the table.

Their dire form means that relegation looks an increasingly likely prospect. Their drop-in form has seen them slump into the relegation zone and they look liable to sink like a stone.

Here’s how the La Liga table stacks up in full since the season resumed after the World Cup. Note: all teams have played 12 matches.

1. Barcelona – 31pts, + 12GD
2. Atletico Madrid – 27pts, +16GD
3. Celta Vigo – 22pts, +9GD
4. Real Sociedad – 22pts, +9GD
5. Real Madrid – 21pts, +11GD
6. Real Betis – 21pts, +3GD
7. Villarreal – 20pts, +3GD
8. Cadiz – 17pts, 0GD
9. Sevilla – 17pts, -4GD
10. Girona – 15pts, +1GD
11. Getafe – 15pts, +1GD
12. Espanyol – 15pts, -4GD
13. Rayo Vallecano – 14pts, -3GD
14. Mallorca – 13pts, -5GD
15. Athletic Bilbao – 12pts, -2GD
16. Osasuna – 11pts, -7GD
17. Real Valladolid – 11pts, -10GD
18. Almeria – 10pts, -9GD
19. Elche – 9pts, -11GD
20. Valencia – 7pts, -10GD

READ NEXT: Barcelona’s all-time greatest La Masia XI: Guardiola, Xavi, Messi…

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Real Madrid’s XI that clinched the La Liga title in 2012?