Levante, not Real or Barca, the Story at the Start
With almost a fourth of the La Liga season gone, Barcelona and Real Madrid are both off to solid starts, but heading into this week’s round of midweek fixtures, neither title favorite was at the top of the table.
Of course, that likely won’t be the case for long, and you’d have to expect those two to once again occupy the top two spots come the end of the season, but to see unheralded Levante top the table has to be the story of the first two months of the season. But when you look at La Liga statistics and see that they have the best defensive mark in the league, is it as much of a surprise as it looks on the surface? After all, defense wins championships, right?
Streaking Levante Surprisingly Sit Top
Which one of these is not like the other? Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla, and Levante?
We’re accustomed to seeing the first three in the top four, but through eight rounds, it’s Levante who are holding steady at the top of the table. Going into tonight’s action, they are on 20 points, one ahead of Real, two ahead of Barcelona, and four ahead of Sevilla.
A shock 1-0 win over Real a little over a month ago looks to have inspired a jolt of confidence of the highest order, as they haven’t stopped winning since. They’ve followed that win with five more in a row, with three of those impressively coming away from home.
Strength at the back has been key to their hot start, as they’ve allowed only three goals thus far, but they’ve also started firing in attack, with back-to-back 3-0 wins against Malaga and Villarreal and 12 goals overall in their last five matches. With struggling Real Sociedad visiting earlier this week, you would have fancied their chances to make it seven wins in a row heading into a weekend visit to Osasuna.
Their start is made all the more impressive by the fact that they’re being led by a first-year manager in Juan Ignacio Martinez, who is having a much better time of it than former manager Luis Garcia Plaza is currently having at Getafe, who are only a point above the drop zone. It’ll be interesting to see how long they can stay hot, but they appear to have an excellent chance at a best-ever top-flight finish, eclipsing their 10th-place finish in the 1963/64 season.
Title Favorites Deal With Early Bumps
As expected, the best attacking statistics in the league belong to Barcelona and Real Madrid, with both sides are on pace to top the 100-goal mark this season and already possess goal differentials above +20.
However, they’ve both had a couple of early stumbles. Barcelona drew only six times over the course of last season, but theyíve already been held three times this season. They let a two-goal lead slip in the second half in a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad, needed a late equalizer to draw 2-2 at Valencia, and then on Saturday, were surprisingly held to a goalless draw at home against Sevilla, with Lionel Messi showing his mortality by missing a penalty deep into stoppage time.
However, they do remain unbeaten, whereas Real Madrid already have a loss to their name, the 1-0 defeat at Levante. That was part of a brief blip by Real, in which they followed their setback at Levante with a goalless stalemate at Racing Santander, who currently sit bottom.
But Real have well and truly put that blip behind them, as they’ve notched four league wins in a row and six wins on the trot in all competitions. They’ve scored at least four goals in each of those four league wins, and each win has come by at least three goals, including Saturday’s 4-0 away thumping of Malaga, who didn’t quite rise to the occasion in what could have been a statement game for the big spenders.
They’ll be occupying their expected spots soon though, especially with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo already tearing it up again. Ronaldo, who had an incredible 40 league goals last season, has 10 already, level at the top of the La Liga scoring charts with Messi, who’s on pace to easily top last seasonís 31 league goals and exceed his career best of 34, which he notched two seasons ago.
Battle At The Bottom
Getafe, Racing Santander, and Sporting de Gijon all managed to survive last season’s tense, tight relegation battle, but will they be able to do so this season? It’s not looking good thus far.
Winless Racing Santander currently sit bottom, with only four points from their first eight matches. They have the worst goal difference in the league at -9, and they’ve also scored the second-fewest goals in the league with only four.
Sporting de Gijon were occupying that bottom slot going into last weekendís fixtures, but they took down Granada 2-0 to finally record their first win of the season after six defeats and a draw.
While promoted Granada lie 18th (whereas fellow promoted sides Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano are seventh and 11th respectively), Getafe surprisingly sit 17th. Getafe made a number of additions this past summer, including bringing in former star Pedro Leon on loan from Real Madrid. But they’ve only picked up six points thus far, with their only win to date being a 1-0 home win over Real Betis a month ago. For a side that, on paper, looked to have the potential to challenge for a top-seven spot, it’s far from the desired start. However, thereís enough time and enough talent in the side to get things turned around.
For match previews and analysis, detailed statistics, and more from La Liga and other top leagues in Europe, visit WhoScored.com.