Is This The Year For a Surprise La Liga Champion?5 min read
Seven games into the new La Liga season and who would’ve thought that not one of the ‘big three’ – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid – had grabbed the bull by the horns and dominated the early stages of the domestic competition.
It’s difficult to know who’s had the worst start too.
Barcelona are top on goal difference, but in the past three matches have dropped points against Girona, Leganes and Athletic Club.
With all due respect to those three clubs, the Catalans would’ve expected to win those matches with ease, as they’ve done in the past.
A mixture of calamitous defending, particularly from Gerard Pique – whose outside interests appear to have taken priority over his defensive duties, complacency and rotations from Ernesto Valverde that simply haven’t worked, have seen to it that Barca haven’t pulled away from the pack despite having the easiest start on paper.
Julen Lopetegui was unhappy after the Madrid derby on Saturday and said as much directly after the game.
Though he should at least be satisfied by the performance of his Real side, the fact that Los Blancos were unable to capitalise on Barcelona’s slip up for the third game in succession will give the coach more questions than answers.
Without Isco and Marcelo, there wasn’t too much in the way of creativity until Dani Ceballos replaced an injured Gareth Bale. Depending on the severity of that injury, and how long it takes for Isco to return (a month out is expected), the former Real Betis man can finally put his imprint on this team more than a year after signing.
After the Madrid derby, Diego Simeone will be the happier of the two coaches, but with only 12 points to their name after seven matches, it is the worst start to a season since the Argentinian has been in charge.
That said, they’re still just two points behind Barca and Real so it’s hardly been a disaster either.
Rodri and Thomas Lemar are beginning to find their feet and regardless of how anyone else does across the campaign, you feel that the Rojiblancos have more than enough about them to mount a genuine challenge.
The coach’s only immediate concern will be the goal scoring form of Diego Costa. After not finding the net at the Santiago Bernabeu, he’s now gone 16 league games without a goal and that’s nowhere close to good enough for a No.9 – just ask Karim Benzema.
Sevilla have settled nicely in the pack whilst Alaves and Espanyol are up there and within touching distance too. With another three clubs just a couple of points behind them, unless the big boys get their act together, we could be looking at a surprise champion come May.
To win the title: