Paul Cox: La Liga is far far more than Barcelona, Real Madrid and a bunch of minnows


La Liga is far far more than Barcelona, Real Madrid and a bunch of minnows

by Paul Cox, Spain

As we move into October, we’re a couple of months into the La Liga season, and some of our preconceived notions might be falling by the wayside.

I must admit that I came to Spain a couple of years ago with a commonly-held opinion that La Liga was “Barcelona, Real Madrid, and a bunch of minnows”. Now that I’ve spent some serious time watching it and the Segunda, I feel compelled to evangelise. La Liga is far far more than that.

So far this year, the big clubs have started looking vulnerable. Currently we’re seven matches into the season and both Barcelona and Real Madrid have dropped points though they remain tied for first with 14 points, but there are currently 7 clubs sitting with 11 points or more.

Personally I’d attribute this to the change in TV money. Previous broadcast rights deals in Spain allowed the two big clubs to strike their own deals, and the rest of the league shared a contract. Now everyone is on the same deal, and while the big guys still get fat checks, it’s not as high relative to the rest of the league. The “minnows” are catching up, building better rosters, and the results are showing. And it is wonderful.

Our three points from the past week or two:

Real Madrid and Barcelona moving in lockstep

“Las gigantes” are unable to put any ground between themselves. Both suffered losses in last week’s midweek games and are of course now turning their attention (after righting the ship with wins this past weekend) towards the Champions League.

Real Madrid have perhaps the better opportunity this week to gain ground, though, as after their trip to Moscow on Tuesday they return to face Alaves in the Basque country on Saturday. Barcelona, on the other hand, travel to London to face Tottenham on Wednesday, then have Valencia on Sunday.

Valencia showing signs of life… just in time

Valencia picked up their first win against Real Sociedad this past weekend, after a midweek draw vs Celta Vigo. The Celta game was illustrative of their season so far; several excellent chances that led to nearly nothing, only one goal. They do seem to be coming together though, at just the right time. They have a big game Tuesday evening, flying to Manchester to play Jose Mourinho’s struggling United at Old Trafford.

With some key players sorting out their injury issues, tonight’s match against United should be a defining moment in the season. It might mark a serious turnaround and resurgence for Los Murciélagos. Facing a side in turmoil might be just what they need.

Seville is spoiled right now

The city of Seville has one of the best local derby rivalries in Europe, and this season’s first matchup (last month) between Sevilla FC and Real Betis was a barnburner. Betis wound up with a 1-0 victory against a ten-man Seville side and the game was all you could hope for in a derby.

Both sides have continued to play very well, and Betis (in fifth, tied on points for fourth) sit just one point behind Seville in the table. A football holiday in sunny Seville sounds terrific right now.

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