Rollercoaster start leaves La Liga awaiting serious contenders

Saturday, October 5th, 2019 20:40 |
Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos celebrates after scoring in the UEFA Champions league Group A match against Club Brugge on Tuesday. Photo/AFP

Real Madrid have hardly got going and Granada have just arrived but La Liga’s chaotic opening few weeks means they face each other in an unlikely battle of first against second on Saturday.

By the end of the eighth round in Spain, seven teams could potentially go into the international break at the top of the table, with Athletic Bilbao in seventh, only three points behind Madrid at the summit.

In between, Barcelona sit fourth and Sevilla sixth, with those two also up against each other at Camp Nou on Sunday. Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad complete the group of early front-runners.

None have truly convinced after a merry-go-round of results against each other that leaves few patterns and many doubts.

Madrid beat Sevilla but were held by Atletico while Granada beat Barcelona but lost to Sevilla. Real Sociedad beat Atletico but lost to Bilbao and Sevilla, who beat Granada and la Real but lost to Real Madrid.

Bilbao, who visit Celta Vigo on Sunday, have not lost to any of the leading seven while Barcelona and Atletico, last season’s champions and runners-up, have not beaten any of them.

“La Liga is complicated for everyone right now,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone last month, adding: “Everyone is trying to build some momentum.”

After two years of domestic disappointment, Zinedine Zidane said in April the league would be Madrid’s priority this season and they remain unbeaten, approaching Granada and have three consecutive clean sheets in the league.

Yet aside from an excellent win away at Sevilla last month, Zidane’s team have looked laboured, particularly at the Santiago Bernabeu, where the tension and frustration in the stands has regularly taken hold on the pitch. 

Eden Hazard has been sluggish and the midfield stodgy. Thibaut Courtois in goal was whistled on Tuesday, his popularity with the fans still to be established.

“Criticism doesn’t affect me,” Hazard said on Monday. “I’ve never taken notice of it. Everyone expects me to score three goals in every game but you have to wait a bit, I’ve had an injury. Goals will come.” -AFP

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