How Have La Liga’s ‘Big Three’ Begun the New Campaign?5 min read
As we head into the first international break of the season, La Liga is only three games old but already a pattern is beginning to emerge at the top of the table.
Barca start as they mean to go on
Last season’s champions, Barcelona, have started the 2018/19 campaign as they ended the last domestic season.
Three wins against Alaves, Valladolid and Huesca might well have been predicted, with respect, but the manner in which Ernesto Valverde’s side have gone about their work bodes well for the immediate future.
Their most difficult assignment thus far came at the Estadio Jose Zorilla where a pitch that was more like a farmer’s field almost derailed the Catalans.
VAR also played its part in the last minute of that one, to keep a win for the visitors intact.
The way in which they dismantled a Huesca side who were unbeaten before heading to the Camp Nou, however, should have the rest of the league fearful of what this team can achieve.
Eight goals scored sent them to the league summit, but an away fixture at Anoeta comes immediately after the break, where Barca have won just once in the league in the last 11 years, the curse being broken last season.
Rejuvenated Benzema leads Real charge
Real Madrid are flying too, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane already a distant memory.
All of the talk in pre-season was how difficult new coach Julen Lopetegui would find it in the Real hot-seat, but in each game played thus far, Los Blancos have set the pace and have laid a couple of ghosts to rest already.
Big wins at Girona and against Leganes go some way to erasing the memory of surprise defeats against the pair last season.
A professional performance against Getafe in their first league game has meant Real have also been perfect in results terms, and performance wise, there’s little to be concerned about.
There is a more natural flow about the team now, and even those players that were rarely used under Zidane are now playing with confidence under Lopetegui.
The biggest filip for the club has to be the form of Karim Benzema. The Frenchman was devoid of confidence and goals last term, but without Ronaldo in situ, Benzema is much more involved and looking like the player of old.
Atletico playing catch-up already
Runners-up in 2017/18, Atletico Madrid have had a tough beginning to this campaign.
A huge outlay on transfers in the summer was expected to yield an immediate return, and a comprehensive win in the UEFA Super Cup final against Real looked to be a springboard.
However, since then they’ve flattered to deceive and that’s likely to disappoint Diego Simeone.
A draw at Mestalla against Valencia in their opener was most certainly a point won, rather than two lost, and it was a 90 minutes that offered incredible entertainment with the intensity levels from both sides simply astonishing.
Rayo Vallecano were next up, and the locals at the Wanda Metropolitano might’ve expected a glut of goals.
As it turned out, the Rojiblancos were indebted to Antoine Griezmann – who else – to win them three points against a dogged Rayo side.
A 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo, in a game where they had the same amount of shots (10) as their hosts, but none on target, wouldn’t have been in the script.
At this early stage, it already puts them five points behind the leaders in a season where it’s expected that they’ll be serious contenders domestically and in Europe.