La Liga Latest: Granada Go Top Of The Pile8 min read
The absence of El Clasico this weekend allowed the focus in La Liga to be shone on some of the less celebrated sides in the Spanish top flight – none more so than newly-promoted Granada.
Diego Martinez, at just 38 years of age, deserves all of the plaudits coming his way having guided his team to the top of the pile. It’s the first time in over two decades that a team that’s just been promoted has led the league after 10 games.
There’ll be darker days ahead of course, but Granada have certainly served notice on the rest of La Liga that they’ll fight tooth and nail for every point.
The fifth game of the season saw them topple Barcelona 2-0, deservedly so, but the general consensus was that it couldn’t last.
Well, it has. Defeats against Sevilla in week two and Real Madrid in week eight are the only blots on an impressive 2019/20 copybook.
Real Betis, beaten by Granada, find themselves in the bottom three. After sacking Quique Setien in the summer and replacing him with Rubi, it’s certainly not where they expected to be, and the coach’s job hangs in the balance at this point.
Real Sociedad have eased into third place, and are another of the unfancied teams to be upsetting the odds so far in this campaign. They too have been playing some sparkling stuff, with Scandinavian pair, Alexander Isak and Martin Odegaard, particularly impressive.
A Getafe defeat at home aside, the Anoeta has become a real fortress for the team from San Sebastian, with the decision to dispense with a running track around the outside of the pitch evidently a good one.
Their play has been vibrant and sharp and their passing sublime. If there’s one area that they could improve at this stage it would be their chance conversion, but Imanol Alguacil will be delighted with how things have gone so far.
Villarreal certainly deserve a mention this week too, after their 4-1 victory over Alaves temporarily took them into third but also ensured that they’re the highest scoring team in the league at this point. Their 24 goals scored is one more than Barcelona have managed, but they need to tighten up defensively if they want to continue their recent successes.
Fourteen goals already conceded is the worst of the top 15 clubs, with only Eibar (16th), Real Betis (18th), Espanyol (19th) and bottom club, Leganes, conceding more.
Of the ‘big boys,’ Atletico Madrid were the only ones in action in week 10, and a 2-0 victory against Athletic Club came courtesy of goals from Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata.
That gave them 10 goals for the season in total, which is the worst output of the top 10 teams with the exception of Athletic who have eight.
Diego Simeone had alluded to the poor form of his strikers in front of goal before the match, and so Morata’s goal was a timely one. The former Chelsea man still needs to go some way to convince the doubters, however. Though his movement has been solid, he is remunerated handsomely to put the ball in the back of the net, and Saturday’s goal was only his second in the league this season.
Diego Costa didn’t start the game and, frankly, they looked brighter up front without him in situ. As well as scoring, Correa also provided a great assist for Morata to tap in, which should give Simeone some food for thought.
As for cross-town rivals, Real, the postponement of what surely would’ve been a keenly contested El Clasico has to be of benefit. Though Los Blancos are right in amongst the leading pack, Zinedine Zidane’s side have flattered to deceive for large parts of this season.
We have seen some excellent individual performances, it’s true, but collectively from back to front Real have to be more in simpatico with each other.
With three league fixtures against Leganes, Betis and Eibar before they face Real Sociedad, Zidane knows that less than nine points from the next three games will be a huge disappointment.
Barcelona, with a huge December ahead of them, will want to keep on the front foot throughout November and, on paper, their fixtures (Valladolid, Levante, Celta and Leganes) are also favourable.
Away form has been the Catalans’ Achilles Heel so far in 2019/20, however, so they underestimate anyone at their peril.
It’s also worth dwelling on how open La Liga remains at this point, over a quarter of the way through the season. Just six points separate the top 10 in the division, with many of those teams having to play each other over the next few weeks.
It’s as open a race as it’s been for years, and makes the notion of La Liga being an uncompetitive league quite incorrect.
There’ll be plenty more twists and turns to come too…!