“It’s boring and uncompetitive.” “A farmer’s league.” Just two of the usual arguments, which mainly come from Premier League watchers, as to the quality of Spain’s top flight, La Liga.
To those that don’t watch La Liga week in and week out, their opinion might well be that Barcelona and Real Madrid (possibly Atletico Madrid) are the only realistic title contenders.
Ostensibly, that’s because the media play into certain narratives and, of course, the two biggest teams in Spain are probably the two biggest in the world. So naturally interest will be higher for those clubs than any other. However, to just dismiss any other shows a real bias and a complete lack of knowledge.
How many recall the way in which Manchester United were beaten by Athletic Club de Bilbao? Or how Sevilla undid the Red Devils at Old Trafford, despite being written off before the game?
Indeed, at that time, broadcasters in the UK were suggesting that the Andalusians were only the sixth best team in Spain. They didn’t bother to go into proper detail as to what they brought to the La Liga table.
Amusingly, this season it’s the English top flight which has one runaway leader. Realistically there is only an outside chance that one or two teams might be able to catch them, depending on results over the next 10 games or so.
La Liga is much tighter. In fact, it’s been years since the top half of the table has been so tightly packed.
Yes, Real Madrid and Barcelona find themselves at the top of the pile. However, unlike most seasons, they’ve not yet put together any kind of run that has allowed them to pull away from the chasing pack, increasing talk of a breakaway European Super League.
Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona side actually begun the 2019/20 campaign with their worst La Liga start in a quarter of a century. Though they’ve recovered, to a point, it’s arguable that they can’t afford to put a foot wrong between now and the end of the season.
That said, and luckily for Barca, whenever the Blaugrana have slipped up, so have their La Liga rivals. Both they and Real, as well as Atletico and Valencia, could’ve probably done without a ridiculously scheduled Spanish Super Cup tournament to begin the year.
Previously a pre-season two-legged affair, the powers that be have decided that a January mini-tournament in Saudi Arabia between the winners of the league, the runners up, the Copa del Rey winners and runners up is the way forward.
In any event, Valencia are another Spanish side to show their mettle this season. Chelsea got a good look at them in the Champions League group stages and Los Che certainly weren’t fancied to get out of a group that included the Blues as well as last season’s semi-finalists, Ajax. A little off of the pace in La Liga, they remain a solid outfit, and are one who will give most other XIs a run for their money, particularly at Mestalla.
Out of the top eight sides at this juncture perhaps the most surprising, to those who don’t tune in regularly, is Real Sociedad.
In Martin Odegaard, a loanee from Real Madrid, they have a player in their ranks who could grace any side in the world. It’s taken a few years for the youngster to blossom but he’s certainly turning on the style at present.
Sevilla and Getafe are only a few points behind the top two too. Whilst their Europa League exploits might push Getafe to the limit domestically, Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla side certainly have staying power.
At exactly halfway through the La Liga season, there’s still a long way to go before anything is decided. However, when we look at the last two campaigns and recall that Barca had it wrapped up by Christmas for all intents and purposes, it’s easy to understand why there’s so much more interest in the competition this season.
Earlier than usual Champions League exits could prove pivotal for league placings. The La Liga fight that we’re seeing week in and week out is making for much better viewing than the best that England have to offer just now.
There’s genuinely not one team that you’d want to lay you hat on at the moment and it’s been a long, long time since Spanish football fans have been able to say that. It’s definitely a title race to keep an eye on…