Wednesday, 12 September 2018

La Liga: August - 2nd September (First 3 league games)

The first month of the new La Liga season has brought its usual excitement, excellent football, quality goals, crazy score lines and controversial moments. Barcelona and Real Madrid with a perfect start to campaign after winning their opening 3 matches while Rayo Vallecano, Leganes and Villarreal make up the bottom 3 at this very early stage.

Defending champions Barcelona have started well and lead the way on goal difference at the top after a crazy month ending 8-2 victory over newly promoted Huesca at the Nou Camp. Barcelona are looking strong and while they may not be up to full gear victories over Valladolid and Alaves along with the bizarre win over Huesca, there intentions are clear once again this season. While it has been a very good start for Julen Lopetegui in the Real Madrid hot seat also winning his opening 3 league games securing derby wins over Getafe and Leganes and a comfortable away win at Girona. Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale are proving that Real Madrid can cope without Cristiano Ronaldo with starting the season well. Bale has notched 3 goals while Benzema who has struggled for goals in the last couple of seasons has notched 4 goals in the opening month and his confidence will firmly be high. Another side starting the season brightly is Celta Vigo under new boss Antonio Muhamed. Celta have notched 7 points from their opening 3 games including winning their last 2 games with victories Levante and an impressive win over Atletico Madrid. Celta were extremely disappointing last season but a positive start to this looks like it could be a much-improved season this time out.

After the top 3 in the league, there is a huge chunk of the league who have 4 points. Levante, Sevilla, Ath Bilbao, Espanyol, Real Sociedad, Getafe, Atletico Madrid, Alaves, Girona, Real Betis and Huesca. All 11 sides have at least one win so far this season. Pablo Machin and Sevilla have played some decent stuff so far but are winless in their last 2 matches since smashing Rayo Vallecano on the opening weekend. A draw with Villarreal and a defeat in the derby with Real Betis followed those results but with qualification to the Europa League secured and a place in top half does represent a good start for Machin. It has also been a good start for Eduardo Berizzo at Ath Bilbao with a win and a draw in their opening 2 games with their other match postponed against Rayo Vallecano due to the condition of Vallecano’s stadium. Berizzo has masterminded a win over Leganes and a draw with Huesca. While the other big Basque club also have a new boss and 4 points with Asier Garitano having a solid start to his tenure at Real Sociedad. Garitano’s side are winless in their last 2 games after beating Villarreal on the opening weekend but since then they squandered at 2-0 lead at Leganes only to draw and lost against Basque rivals Eibar. Garitano will have seen plenty of positives and negatives so far but he will be relatively happy so far. Espanyol also have a new boss in Rubi and like Garitano and Berizzo, he also has 4 points so far. Espanyol’s only win was an impressive win against Valencia, but they drew to Celta Vigo and lost to Eibar but a positive for Rubi is new signing Borja Iglesias brought in to replace Gerard Moreno has scored in the opening month and that will please the Espanyol fans. Eusebio Sacristan and Girona started the season without a win in their opening 2 games having drawn to Valladolid and lost to Real Madrid. However, an impressive away win at Villarreal for a second consecutive season may have got Eusebio’s tenure up and running and they will go into September full of confidence.

It has been a disappointing opening month for both Villarreal and Valencia. Villarreal started last season poorly and consequently Fran Escriba was sacked at the start of September and the pressure will be on Javi Calleja to quickly secure a win but the Yellow Submarine have struggled to get going so far this season at home with two straight defeats against Real Sociedad however, a draw against European rivals Sevilla is a good result but yet again it has been a slow start for Villarreal. 12 months ago Valencia were soaring at the top of the table having won their opening game and beginning a long winning and unbeaten run. It took until a trip to Getafe in December to see Valencia lose. However, fast forward to this season and Valencia have already suffered their first defeat and are winless in their opening 3 games. Marcelino will be relatively secure in his job and no doubt will be given plenty of time to get Valencia up and running but he will want that to happen as soon as possible. A disappointing defeat at Espanyol was sandwiched between draws against Atletico Madrid and the Valencia derby with Levante. Marcelino will hope September brings a change and positive run of results with their Champions League campaign also getting under way.  Another side struggling is Leganes under new signing Mauricio Pellegrino. Pellegrino has quite literally assembled a new squad with more than 20 new signings brought into the club this summer. Their start to the season has reflected this complete squad transition with just a solitary point in their opening 3 games. However, in defence of Leganes, they have faced 3 of the toughest La Liga sides in Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad and Real Madrid. A tough start for Pellegrino and he will hope September brings a change of fortunes starting against another big hitter in Villarreal in what it a big game at the bottom of the table.

The three promoted sides have had mixed fortunes so far this campaign. Huesca in their first ever campaign in Spain’s top flight have started the brighter under new boss Leo Franco joining half the league with 4 points from their opening 3 games. Huesca started brilliantly with an excellent win away at Eibar and followed that with a brilliant comeback at the San Mames against Ath Bilbao including a goal of the season contender from Ezequiel Avila. However, the opening month finished with a hammering from Barcelona and while their confidence may have taken a little hit, they have made a very good impression so far and they will want to continue that throughout September and the rest of the season. While it has been a conservative start for Valladolid in their returning season with 2 draws and a defeat so far. However, goal scoring is a big issue for Valladolid with the club being the only side yet to score a goal so far this season. While they look solid at the back only conceding against Barcelona, goals are desperately needed in this side to give them a chance at winning matches and a home against Alaves next must be where they at least register a goal because this drought cannot become more severe. However, there plenty of reasons for Valladolid to be positive following a majority sale to new owner Brazilian legend Ronaldo. He will want to bring good things to the club and the Valladolid fans will be excited at where they club wants to go under their new owner. In contrast, it has been a miserable opening month for Rayo Vallecano with 2 defeats in their 2 games so far against Sevilla and in the derby with Atletico Madrid. To make matters worse, the state of their stadium is shocking and has been condemned by La Liga until the middle of October so they club can sort out the major issues at their home ground. This will not have help the club on the pitch and the pressure will be on in September to get their season up and running starting against Huesca.

La Liga has firmly announced its return and September will no doubt bring all the excitement and quality La Liga offers every season. Some tasty games to come in September including Ath Bilbao vs Real Madrid, Real Sociedad vs Barcelona, Villarreal vs Valencia, Getafe vs Ath Madrid, Barcelona vs Ath Bilbao and Real Madrid vs Ath Madrid. So, plenty of mouth watering games to come in September and no doubt goals, excitement and controversy will follow. Here’s to an brilliant September of La Liga football.

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