La Liga summary: The disappointments, surprises and the form of Barcelona

Barca Universal 18:05 30/12/2019
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Martin Odegaard

As always, every season is full of several positive surprises, and some disappointments too. In this summary we’ll cover them all as we review how the teams have done in the 18 games of La Liga so far.

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La Liga has always been a league that is universally loved and watched by many. Whether it is just for one game (El Clasico) or for the whole season, with games that seem meaningless like a Granada–Osasuna, all its clashes bring a lot of joy and excitement for the La Liga fans.

The 2019/20 season has been nothing short of breathtaking so far: an exciting title race accompanied by some strange runs of form from quite a few teams and a lot of surprises in the top half of the table.

It’s quite fair to assume that La Liga has lived up to its statute of best league in the world while having sky high standards. As the league is one game away from the halfway point, we present you a summary on how the La Liga sides been doing in their domestic league and in Europe.

The disappointments

When Borja Iglesias was banging in goals left right and centre at this time last year, Espanyol was a team that received a lot of plaudits to their impressive start to the season.

This eventually helped them get to the Europa League for the first time since 2006/07, where they were runners-up behind fellow Spanish team Sevilla, who won three UEFA cups in a row after this triumph.

This campaign has been nothing short of diabolical for the Catalan side, at least in Spain. The Periquitos have let down their two former coaches.

David Gallego was promoted from the B team in the summer to compensate for the departure of Rubi, but he couldn’t live up to expectations and left in October. His replacement, Pablo Machin, then suffered his second sacking since his appointment at Sevilla.

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They have found themselves at the bottom of the First Division.

They have looked flat and powerless. In fact, they haven’t scored in seven league games and have netted the least amount of goals in the league by a distance: 12 in comparison to Leganes’ 14.

Abysmal defending, toothless attacking and a midfield with no plan, this team is managerless and without ideas. They have failed to counteract Borja Iglesias’ exit, Calero has underperformed as Hermoso’s replacement, and the talent of the likes of Marc Roca, Darder and Melendo is not being enhanced.

Their relegation could be nothing short of a formality if they continue in this vicious circle. They, at least, have a bright spot in their season: they finished first in their Europa League group and will be going toe-to-toe against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the round of 32, a feel-good story in England.

Next up in the disappointment list: Celta Vigo. The Galician side endured nightmare of a 2018/19 season, battling relegation for a big part of the course and the talisman Iago Aspas being injured for most part of it.

It was Aspas who then rose in the final days to save his beloved Celta from the perils of relegation. Coach Fran Escriba was given a long-term contract and the team had a reshuffle in the summer. Santi Mina was lured away from Valencia when Maxi Gomez became a bat in a player swap, while ex-Blaugranas Rafinha and Denis Suarez moved back to Vigo as well.

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This term has also been tough for the Celestes, and the football has been dull ever since 2018. Chaotic games have been common, like the one against Granada, where two red cards were given to Celta players.

Indeed, they are the team in La Liga with the most red cards, and this lack of discipline has translated over their form. They have found themselves 18th in the league table and even Iago Aspas can’t save them anymore.

They have also have not won a single game in the month of December and this kind of form, if not bettered, will cost them. Former Barca player and La Masia manager Oscar Garcia replaced Escriba, but results haven’t improved much since.

Leganes have upset this year too, as they are 19th with 13 points. Mauricio Pellegrino was dismissed and in came Mexican boss Javier Aguirre. With him, things have looked much better for them, having more clarity and determination, and obtaining a vital 2–0 win against direct rivals Espanyol.

On the other hand, Betis have disappointed too considering the big investment made in the summer, recruiting the likes of Nabil Fekir, Borja Iglesias and coach Rubi. In spite of the individual quality in the squad, they are only 13th. The Verdiblanco fanbase had been asking for Quique Setien’s departure in the last term, but matters have got worse without him.

The surprises

There have been a lot of surprises in La Liga over these past four months. The Basque teams have been quite encouraging domestically lately.

Real Sociedad finished ninth in the 2018/19 and were in dire need of a change. With Geronimo Rulli loaned out to Montpellier, Alex Remiro was brought from Athletic Club after an unsuccessful loan spell at minnows Huesca, who put up quite the fight before getting relegated last season.

Teenage sensation Martin Odegaard has been the player of the season for the Spanish outfit. The Norwegian has played out of his skin and has justified all the hype he triggered ever since 2016 and his arrival at Madrid.

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Alexander Isak also has been brilliant and his goal against Barcelona earlier this month ensured La Real a deserved draw at Anoeta. Portu, purchased from Girona, has completed a formidable attack alongside Oyarzabal and Willian Jose. The San Sebastian side are fifth and will aim at the European places.

Predicted to be relegated by all pundits and La Liga fans, Andalusian group Granada sitting at 11th is more than surprising. Impressive wins against Barca and Celta will make their season even more remarkable and impressive. Football has been free-flowing and goals have been quite the norm at Los Carmenes.

Hopefully they continue their good form and at least finish in mid table. Diego Martinez is doing wonders.

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Sevilla are third and look fresh and determined with Julen Lopetegui. By bringing the likes of Fernando, Diego Carlos, Lucas Ocampos and Sergio Reguilon, Monchi’s work as the technical secretary was formidable once more.

Getafe, with Barca loanee Marc Cucurella, have been as rigid and structured as last year. Despite a sloppy start, they are now sixth. Meanwhile, Gaizka Garitano’s Athletic Club have based their triumphs around their solidity at the back. With the second least amount of goals conceded (12, one more than Atleti and the same as Madrid), they are currently standing at seventh.

And Barcelona?

Barcelona haven’t been their usual selves in the league. At the beginning of the season, with Lionel Messi injured and the new signings, like Antoine Griezmann and Junior Firpo, failing to gel fast into the team, the Blaugranas struggled a bit and it was clear that this campaign would not be the easy walk in the park that it usually was.

With a shambolic loss to begin with away at San Mames, and only four away wins in the first nine in La Liga, the Azulgranas have found themselves at the top of the table while not playing the prettiest football. For example, in El Clasico, Madrid dominated Barca for most of the game, but it ended all square at the Camp Nou.

Now, thanks to Messi’s incredible form, they are first, two points above Los Blancos, with the Argentinian as the top scorer and joint top assister in the league, along with Ever Banega and Luis Suarez.

The Catalans have picked it up and a win at Atletico’s Wanda has been the highlight so far. In Europe, though, it has been a better road. After a shaky performance in the Signal Iduna Park, where Marc-Andre ter Stegen was the hero to salvage a point with a penalty save and numerous acrobatic saves, wins against Inter and Slavia Prague ensured Barca would finish first and face a dangerous but manageable team in Ancelotti-less Napoli.

Let’s hope that La Liga stays as exciting, and Barca becomes even more appealing and dangerous, for the remainder of the season.

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