Wednesday, 10 October 2018

La Liga: September Review (Matchday 4 to 7)


La Liga is the certainly the league that consistently gives us entertainment, exciting football and quality goals. Going into October, the league is extremely tight with just 3 points separating the top 7 sides. Barcelona lead the way ahead of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla. While the bottom 3 is made up of Rayo Vallecano, Huesca and Leganes who are all lacking goals, conceding too many and severely lacking confidence.

The top of the table is extremely tight with Barcelona and Real Madrid both stuttering in September. Valverde’s Barcelona are winless in their last 3 league games with 2 draws and a defeat to struggling Leganes. While Real Madrid are also winless and goalless in their last 3 league games and already both Ernesto Valverde and Julen Lopetegui are under pressure to improve quickly. While September was excellent for 3rd place Sevilla with Pablo Machin’s side winning their last 3 games scoring 12 goals in the process. Machin is slowly getting a tune out of his new look side but certainly the striking partnership of Wissam Ben Yedder and Andre Silva is looking a very good combination indeed with the duo notching 12 goals between them. September certainly belonged to the Andalusian club and they will be confident of keeping their form up going into October. 4th place Atletico Madrid also had a strong September with Diego Simeone’s side staying unbeaten throughout the month winning 2 and drawing 2 including in the Madrid derby with the Los Blancos. Atletico Madrid are slowly clicking into gear after a slow start to the campaign and no doubt will feel they can challenge for the title with the top 2 stuttering through September.  

September was an excellent month for Espanyol, Alaves and Valladolid. It was an excellent month for Espanyol with Rubi’s side ending the month in 7th place after winning 2 of their 4 games and losing just once against Real Madrid. Rubi has made Espanyol efficient, clinical and tough to beat. New start striker Borja Iglesias is adapting well at Spain’s highest-level notching 2 goals while Esteban Granero, Sergi Darder, Pablo Piatti and Mikel Hermoso are also playing at the top of their game.  Rubi will be delighted with his opening few months at the Barcelona based club and no doubt he will want that positive momentum to carry during October.  Alaves also enjoyed September and no doubt they will be hoping their momentum carries into the new month. Abelardo Fernandez’s side are looking confident and oozing quality from all areas. They are also proving a tough nut to crack defensively conceding just 8 goals so far this season. Despite a defeat to Levante, Alaves enjoyed an excellent September thrashing Rayo Vallecano, beating Valladolid and drawing with Getafe. Newly promoted Real Valladolid have enjoyed their September ending the month with back to back wins seeing them climb up to 10th place. The new boys have a tough August with goals proving allusive however, its clear a win makes all the difference with the club oozing confidence and moral is high with goals beginning to flow from all areas of the pitch. Their highlight was certainly a 1-0 away win at Villarreal with new boy Leonardo Suarez proving a shrewd signing by Valladolid. The irony for Villarreal is that Suarez’s is their player. But Villarreal’s loss has been Valladolid’s gain and no doubt confidence is high going into October.

However, September was difficult for Leganes, Huesca and Rayo Vallecano. The bottom 3 clubs are struggling across all areas of the pitch. Its been a difficult start for Mauricio Pellegrino at Leganes with his completely new look side not gelling and conceding too many cheap goals. Despite a win over Barcelona in the month of September, they lost the other 3 leaving them with just 4 points from their opening 7 games and certainly Pellegrino could well be feeling the heat. Leganes are pointless and goalless away from home so far this season and Pellegrino must get this team to gel fast. No doubt confidence would off been very high after their stunning win over Barcelona but a disappointing defeat to Eibar followed. No doubt a big Madrid derby with Vallecano to kick off October could be the catalyst to ignite their stuttering season. Rayo Vallecano may also look at that game as a chance to ignite their season. The Madrid based club have notched just 5 points from their opening 6 games and on a winless run of 3 matches. Vallecano are struggling for goals and confidence and things must improve fast otherwise their latest stay in La Liga will be very short indeed. Things are proving hard for new boys Huesca with the club winless since the opening weekend of the season. Their first ever La Liga campaign is proving difficult for the club and Leo Franco is also struggling in his first managerial role. The club have shown glimpses of quality in matches, but their final ball and finish is alluding them. Not to mention their defence has been abysmal so far this campaign conceding 8 in one match and 17 in total. Conceding on average 2 goals a game is not going to win them football matches. Leo Franco is severely under pressure and must get them going otherwise the sack could loom for the young manager.  Times have been tough for the current bottom 3 but could October be the month to get their seasons up and running.

4 huge La Liga clubs, rich in Spanish football history are struggling in bottom half of the La Liga table. Valencia, Villarreal, Ath Bilbao and Real Sociedad are 4 of Spain’s biggest football clubs but finding life difficult so far this season. Both big Basque clubs changed their manager during the summer and so far, Eduardo Berizzo and Asier Garitano are yet to really get Bilbao and Sociedad going this campaign. Bilbao are 15th after a slow start with just 1 win so far this campaign and goals are proving tough with Artiz Aduriz not at his usual best while Inaki Williams can’t buy a goal for love nor money. Real Sociedad are point and a place better off than Bilbao but Asier Garitano’s side are inconsistent and struggling for goals in particular at the Anoeta. Garitano is attempting to put his style across and no doubt it is taking time but in the modern game managers don’t get the time needed. October is a big month for both Basque clubs with them kicking off the month against each other. Could a derby win ignite one club’s season? Only time will tell. Valencia are also enduring a tough start to the season. Despite only losing once, they have only managed 1 win in their opening 7 games. Marcelino’s side suffering from high expectations after last season’s fantastic campaign. Goals are also proving hard to find with Valencia notching just 5 league goals. That is a major problem for Valencia and they must address that issue quickly. Whereas, inconsistency is Villarreal’s big issue. The Yellow submarine can be excellent one week and very poor another as highlighted in their victory over Ath Bilbao and defeat to Valladolid. They lie 12th after the first two months and no doubt Javi Calleja will demand improvement going into October. In fact, all 4 managers will demand improvement with each club well below expectations and should this poor form continue through October, could the axe fall on any of them? Big clubs bring big expectations and so far, all 4 clubs are flattering to deceive.

September was brilliant, and no doubt October will be the same with some mouth-watering games to come including Ath Bilbao vs Real Sociedad, Leganes vs Rayo Vallecano, Valencia vs Barcelona, Barcelona vs Sevilla, Villarreal vs Ath Madrid, Rayo Vallecano vs Getafe, Eibar vs Ath Bilbao, Ath Bilbao vs Valencia, Ath Madrid vs Real Sociedad and the first El Clasico of the season between Barcelona and Real Madrid. October could be a very defining month for the La Liga clubs with the season really beginning to take shape. The axe could fall on managers as improvement will be demanded by many after average Septembers. But who will be the first club to make that call? October could provide us with plenty of answers.

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