This is a post by frequent contributor Donald Wine II
The La Liga season is almost a third of the way completed, and so far there have been some expected performances, some disappointments, and some incredible surprises.
Before the season, we had many questions: would Jose Mourinho take Real Madrid back to the promised land? Would Lionel Messi and Barcelona continue their title-winning ways? Would another team like a Sevilla or Atlético Madrid or a Villareal give the proverbial top-2 a run for their money? Would another team, like the 3 promoted teams in Real Sociedad, Levante and Hércules stake their roots in one of the best leagues in the world? We take a brief look at what La Liga has given us thus far.
The Expected: Before the season started, everyone assumed that the race for La Liga would be a two-horse race with Real Madrid and Barcelona separating themselves from the pack. While they haven’t done so yet, Barca and Real have set themselves up to start pouring on the steam. Real have not yet lost under first-year coach Jose Mourinho in all competitions, and Real have balanced incredible offensive performances with a vastly improved defensive unit.
While offensive stars like Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria have done well so far and with Ronaldo leading the race for El Pichichi (top goalscorer), it is the offseason acquisition of Ricardo Carvalho that has proven to be the best acquisition in La Liga thus far. Barca, while their one loss was an epic 2-0 home defeat at the hands of recently-promoted Hércules, have played very well. David Villa has continued his scoring ways with 5 goals so far, and now Lionel Messi has recovered from a somewhat slow start to creep back up to 2nd in La Liga with 8 goals through 10 matches. On the other end, Málaga is firmly in the cellar, and while they haven’t had the problems scoring like they were expected to have, their league-high 22 goals allowed have been the difference.
The Disappointing: Atlético Madrid, fresh off a campaign where they won the Europa League, was seeking to crack into the top 4 and finally give Barca and Real something to worry about. This season, however, they have continued their inconsistent ways.
Currently, they are 7th in the standings, one place out of a Europa League spot. To move up, they’re going to need increased production from star forwards Diego Forlán and Sergio Aguero.
Sevilla, who finished in 4th place last season after beating 5th-place Mallorca on the final matchday, is hovering in 9th and not receiving the same offensive punch from Frederic Kanoute and Álvaro Negredo that they got last season. Finally, despite a monumental 2-0 victory over the Blaugrana at the Camp Nou this season, Hércules expected more than what they have done so far this season. The addition of David Trezeguet and Royston Drenthe had Hércules dreaming of a much better season. Yet, they have performed like so many other promoted teams have: fighting to play another season in the top flight.
The Surprising: Villareal has put on a helluva display so far this season, only losing one goal and getting incredible production from forwards Nilmar and Italian-American Giuseppe Rossi, with both putting 7 balls into the back of the net so far this season.
Villareal sit 3rd, only two points behind Barca and 3 behind Real. Espanyol sit 4th despite allowing more goals then they have given up. They have had some terrible losses, yet they continue to ink out some 1-0 victories to keep them in contention for Europe. Valencia, with the loss of their two best players in David Villa and David Silva, would have had every reason to phone this season in. Yet, they still sit in 5th place and only have 2 losses on the campaign. Finally, Real Sociedad may have had the best season so far. One of the newly-promoted squads this season, they are in 5th place so far and have quality victories over Espanyol and Villareal, with a nailbiting defeat to Real Madrid at home. They look to keep up their winning ways as the season goes along to stake their claim in La Liga beyond this season.
The 2nd third of the season should have plenty of drama, as we see this season’s first installment of El Clásico, where Jose Mourinho walks into the Camp Nou for the first time as Real’s coach, and the Barcelona derby that could have implications on the top of the table more than any other Barcelona derby in recent memory. La Liga has been exciting thus far…sit tight. I have a feeling that it’s going to get better and better.
Donald Wine II is the author of the blog “Life In 1-1-8,” which can be found here.