We are now 9 games into La Liga 2018/19 but the top of the table is still yet to take on the familiar look that we’ve got used to seeing in recent years. Admittedly Barcelona did go top this weekend with a victory over Sevilla but with Espanyol and Alaves currently in 2nd and 3rd not to mention newly promoted Real Valladolid now sitting in 6th above Real Madrid, this has been a remarkable opening to the campaign.
In terms of the competitiveness of the league it has to be seen as a positive thing but almost inevitably there has been more focus on what the big teams are doing wrong rather than what any of the unlikely names currently lingering near the top are doing right. The gulf in resources and quality is such that eventually the cream will rise to the top but few would begrudge some of the Spanish top flight’s smaller clubs their moment in the spotlight.
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4 defeats in 5 for Real Madrid
Real Madrid 1-2 Levante: Marcelo strike ends goal drought but Jose Luis Morales and Roger Marti ensure pressure increases further on Julen Lopetegui as Los Blancos’ run without a win extends to five matches pic.twitter.com/MkEirdLRSS
— Lilian Chan (@bestgug) October 20, 2018
There is only really one place to start though and that’s with Real Madrid, who are in the midst of one of their worst runs in many years. On Saturday their goal drought became officially the longest in the club’s history. It did finally end, after a ridiculous 8 hours without a goal, with Marcelo’s 2nd Half strike against Levante. However they were already 2-0 down by that point and despite a much-improved showing after the interval, they couldn’t find a leveller and sank to their 4th defeat in 5 matches.
Credit must go to Levante, who put in another counter-attacking masterclass with José Luis Morales again impressing. The win was their third straight success in La Liga and came just a month after they were thrashed 6-2 at home by Sevilla. They appear more suited to playing on the road with 5 wins in their last 8 away matches and the result moved them to within a point of Real Madrid.
For Julen Lopetegui though, the situation is already getting close to beyond repair. The fact Real Madrid have a clasico trip to Camp Nou next weekend may be the main reason he remains in a job. The former Spain boss was never Florentino Perez’s first choice and he already appears to be losing patience although is unlikely to risk rocking the boat further in the build-up to such an enormous fixture.
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Barca ease past Sevilla despite Messi injury blow
❗ [INJURY NEWS] Tests carried out on the first team player Leo Messi have confirmed that he has a fracture of the radial bone in his right arm. He will be out for approximately three weeks. #FuerzaLeo pic.twitter.com/kpNcspnfqo
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 20, 2018
If there was a small crumb of comfort for Real Madrid this weekend, it came in the sight of Leo Messi leaving the pitch early against Sevilla with a fractured arm that is set to rule him out of el clasico. He only needed 26 minutes on the pitch to send Barcelona well on their way to a significant victory against the side that was 2nd heading into match-day 9. Indeed Barca were 2-0 up after just 12 minutes with Messi chipping in with a goal and an assist before he suffered the injury blow.
The game finished 4-2 and it will be interesting to see just how Barca cope without their talisman over the next few weeks. They have become increasingly dependent on Messi’s talents ever since Neymar’s departure and it’s a situation that could go one of two ways. The absence of Messi may spark other players into life and the Catalans could come out of this a better all-round unit, something that was largely the case the last time Messi was out for a significant length of time during Luis Enrique’s first season at the club.
However unquestionably there is a chance this could only serve to expose Barcelona’s frailties further. They have looked vulnerable whenever they’ve rotated this season and could really have done with Messi heading into a game with Inter in the Champions League as well as that crunch clash with Real Madrid in La Liga on Sunday, where Barca have the chance to open up a 7 point advantage on Los Blancos.
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Surprise Packages continue to impress
There is an all-Barcelona top two in La Liga currently with Espanyol surprisingly 2nd after a 2-0 win at minnows Huesca, who already look like a team that stands precious little chance of maintaining their top flight status. Rubi left the Aragonese club for the RCDE Stadium this summer and he has really got a reaction out of this Espanyol side. They’ve been organised defensively and crucially main summer signing Borja Iglesias has been delivering the goods up top. The 25 year old had only played 11 minutes of top flight football before this season but having netted 22 times for Zaragoza in the Segunda last term, he took his tally to 4 goals this season with a brace on Sunday afternoon.
As a result, they leapfrogged an Alaves side that briefly went top of the table on Friday night with a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo. The Galicians hadn’t previously lost at home in 2018 so it was a fantastic result but again there is still a sense that Alaves lack the quality to really hang around in the top four for much longer. Abelardo has done a sensational job with the Basque club though with Alaves boasting a league win percentage of 53% since he took charge at the end of last year.
Just when it seemed the top six couldn’t get any stranger, newly promoted Real Valladolid won at Betis on Sunday night to move above Real Madrid and into 6th place. This is the same Valladolid that failed to score in any of their opening 4 games this term but they now boast the division’s longest winning streak with 4 consecutive victories. Already they have 15 points on the board, 5 more than the other two newly promoted sides combined with Huesca and Rayo Vallecano currently propping up the division.
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