La Liga: boring, uncompetitive and all that. Hang on …

first_img20Leganes7-64 12Getafe608 Quick guide La Liga results features Show Just seven weeks in, no one is winless in Spain and no one is unbeaten . The gap from top to bottom is 10 points – it’s 17 in England – and between them the top three have dropped 23 points, compared to eight in the Premier League. Expand that to fourth and it’s 31 points dropped in Spain, 14 in England. The Premier League’s top three have 53 points; Spain’s top three are 12 points behind.Extrapolate the points totals across the season, and Barcelona would win the league with 76. No one has wonwith fewer points since Deportivo de La Coruña in 2000. You have to go back to 2006-07, when Madrid somehow won the most inexplicable, ridiculous title imaginable with 76 points to find anything close. Since then, the champions have collected 87, 99, 96, 100, 100, 90, 94, 91, 93 and 93 points. 19Huesca7-105 Ligue 1 suffers more crowd trouble as rival fans battle over stolen banner 9Valladolid709 2Real Madrid7614 11Villarreal718 Share on Facebook Topics 8Celta Vigo629 Share on WhatsApp 17Eibar7-47 Share on Pinterest Facebook Twitter Pinterest 15Athletic Bilbao6-27 Talking points• Atlético Madrid have asked the refereeing committee to “clarify” the use of VAR for handballs after they were denied a possible penalty against Casemiro (and another from Sergio Ramos).• At Ipurua, part of the stand collapsed as Sevilla celebrated their second goal against Eibar, injuring a dozen people. Thankfully none were seriously hurt. As the players gathered, trying to help , Pablo Sarabia turned to an Eibar player and said: “The guy from the league can’t just come and say: ‘They broke it.’” Sadly, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if that’s what happens.• They’ve got a Scottish goalkeeper and an English centre-back so how are Real Murcia’s opponents supposed to score? They’ve moved third in Segunda B, Group 4, having conceded three all season. Meanwhile, Málaga are top of the Second Division, after Jack Harper scored again to give them a 1-0 win over Rayo Majadahonda. Continuing this week’s Brit Watch, Patrick Roberts and Nick Blackman came on as second-half subs for Girona and Sporting respectively, and played well. Up in the first division, Gareth Bale was off at half-time in the derby and hasn’t travelled to Russia. He’s only expected to be out for a couple of weeks. Paul Burgess’s pitch was perfect, though. Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks. Real Madrid Nacho of Real Madrid during the derby. Photograph: Soccrates Images/Getty Images Sportblog Share on LinkedIn 18Rayo Vallecano6-75 Twitter PosTeamPGDPts Levante celebrate after their winner against Alaves. Photograph: Biel Alino/EPA Was this helpful? Share on Messenger Bayern’s wobble at Hertha gives Bundesliga rivals reason to daydream 6Alaves7211 7Espanyol7211 And things are improving. Economic control, aggressively applied, often resisted, has helped bring stability. Administration and insolvency have almost gone from the top two divisions, football’s collective debt to state slowly being paid off: from €600m five years ago to a target of €50m next season. The TV deal is collective now – forced through by the league and enshrined by law because they knew it wouldn’t hold otherwise – and the income is increasing, the gap between the top and the bottom not quite so stark. This summer, Spanish clubs spent almost €900m. Thank you for your feedback. Atlético Madrid Pinterest 13Real Sociedad7-18 So it goes: Levante’s neighbours Valencia, contenders last season but just one point above relegation at kick-off, needed a penalty save from Neto to win for the first time. Up the coast, Villarreal were beaten by Real Valladolid, with the smallest budget in the division. In a game which had the miss of the season from Youssef En Nesyri, who somehow put the ball over from four yards, and perhaps the save of the season from Pichu Cuéllar, reaching back for Joaquín’s header, Betis had 82.5% of possession but needed an 89th-minute goal from sub Loren Moron to defeat bottom-placed Leganés. The same Leganés who beat Barcelona four days earlier.But, you know, La Liga: boring, uncompetitive and all that.Villarreal haven’t won a game at home this season; as for Valladolid, they’ve not lost a game away. Up late via the play-offs, they spent €2m in the summer, and are two points off a European place. Real Sociedad, Athletic and Valencia are 13th, 14th and 15th. The top four look familiar – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Atlético – and the bottom three are predictable enough – Rayo Vallecano, Huesca, Leganés – but this is not the same as ever. You can see that in the other stats. The top scorers – André Silva (7) and Christhian Stuani (6) – play for Sevilla and Girona. The man who has completed most passes plays for Betis (Mandi), the man with most successful crosses (Jonathan Silva) is at Leganés, and no one has more assists than Alavés’s Jony – although Lionel Messi has as many.The problem was never so much that Madrid and Barcelona won every league – although a single title won by someone else in the last 14 years isn’t great – as the risk that they won them too easily, that they won virtually every game. That’s broken already. Four years ago, one newspaper declared it the “cheapest” league this century because seven games into the season the leaders had 15 points, the lowest total since 1995-96. That autumn, an Atlético player confided: “We can’t win a 100-point league,” but they didn’t need to, which is one reason they won an almost impossible title. Now, four years on, Barcelona are top with 14 points: “Leaders despite everything,” as the cover of Sport put it. Read more Of course, “cheap” is one way of looking at it and the focus is naturally on the failings of Real Madrid and Barcelona. On Atlético too, in fact – seemingly embarking on a now familiar early-season journey where they start trying to change before realising they were better off the way they were. That’s always the way, a consequence of media coverage, where four newspapers are dedicated to Madrid and Barcelona, and most of the TV and radio is too, a socio-economic and cultural reality in a country where more than 60% of fans support them.“Every defeat is an earthquake,” Ernesto Valverde rightly said and yet it’s also the case this time.Real Madrid had impressed early on and were fantastic against Roma, especially, the football better than before. There was a rush on “Ronaldo who?”, Karim Benzema a No 9 again, but efficiency has now plummeted. You have to go back seven years for the last time they went two league games in a row without scoring. Wins against Espanyol, Getafe, Huesca and Girona, looked back upon through the prism of now, don’t entirely convince, just as Barcelona’s 2-1 win at Real Sociedad and 1-0 victory at Valladolid don’t, even on that pitch. Julen Lopetegui said his team had dominated Atlético this weekend, and in the second half that was true, but chances were few. In Catalonia, meanwhile, “crisis” has made an appearance. Valverde talked about an “accident”. Once, perhaps; twice, maybe; but three times? Bluntly, Barcelona have been bad.But while cheap is one word, might competitive be another? Is there something more to cling to? Although La Liga has tended to be a two-horse race – and became a three-horse race since Simeone arrived back in Spain – it was never because the rest were donkeys. Between them, Spanish teams have won nine of the last 10 European titles, offering four different winners of the continent’s two competitions. La Liga accounts for four of the top six in the rankings. Villarreal and Celta have been European semi-finalists in the last three years. Reuse this content 3Sevilla7913 Barcelona Rayo Vallecano 2-2 Espanyol, Real Madrid 0-0 Atlético Madrid, Eibar 1-3 Sevilla, Barcelona 1-1 Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad 0-1 Valencia, Real Betis 1-0 Leganés, Levante 2-1 Alavés, Villarreal 0-1 Real Valladolid, SD Huesca 1-1 Girona The gap is still vast. It is also enormous between England and Spain, the fear of being eclipsed real and the financial power of Spain’s “other” clubs remains small. Collectively, Spanish clubs might have spent almost €900m but in net spend it’s well under €100m. Most of the sales, of course, go to England – the Premier League is the threat, but it is also what sustains them in the short-term. When Madrid and Barcelona both lost in midweek, it was the first time that had happened in three years. To take the salary caps as a measure of the imbalances, Barcelona (€632.9m), Real Madrid (€566.5m) and even Atlético (€293m) or Valencia (€164.6m) and Sevilla (€162,7m) are way ahead of Betis (€97.1m), Alavés (€39.1m) and Espanyol (€56.7m), let alone Rayo (€38m), Huesca (€29.3m) or Valladolid (€23.8m). And yet Betis, Alavés and Espanyol are fifth, sixth and seventh.Leganés are bottom. “It would be lovely if everything became more equal,” said coach Mauricio Pellegrino. “Normality would be for things to be like they were over 20 years ago. But we’re last and we beat the team who’s first – and that’s good news.”Realism says it won’t last, that by the end the same teams will be there. That, forget extrapolating from their results to calculate an 80-point league, they will accelerate soon, leaving those figures behind. Optimism says that at least it looks a little different; that it might not last but it might as well be enjoyed while it does – and beyond. That at least their journey there won’t be easy. “Every game is a conquest,” Lopetegui said. It’s supposed to be, anyway. 16Levante7-37 Read more Juventus in daunting form as Ronaldo turns provider against Napoli European club football Facebook Share via Email 10Girona7-29 Read more Hide 5Real Betis7012 4Atletico Madrid7412 Share on Twitter 14Valencia7-18 On Saturday afternoon, leaders Barcelona only managed a 1-1 home draw against 15th-placed Athletic Club Bilbao; without a win in three, they dropped their seventh point in six days. On Saturday night, Real Madrid failed to score for the second game running, drawing 0-0 with Atlético Madrid; they’ve won just one in four now, while their city rivals left the Bernabéu unbeaten for a sixth successive season but have only won three from seven. And in between those matches, Sevilla beat Eibar, taking them third and on to 17 goals in 10 days, including three against Madrid. Before that, they hadn’t won in three, collecting a solitary point. They hadn’t even scored.On Sunday evening, Alavés had the chance to go joint top with Barcelona, a club with a budget 16 times bigger. It wasn’t just an early-season quirk: since Abelardo Fernández took over 31 weeks before, only Barcelona, Madrid and Atlético had more points. All Alavés had to do now was beat Levante, who’d slipped into the relegation zone, but they didn’t: 1-0 up early, another wonderful delivery from Ibai Gómez headed in by Ruben Sobrino, they lost 2-1. Led by Rubén Rochina, Levante scored twice before half-time, Jason and Toño García getting the goals. “They were better than us,” Abelardo said. “It’s very difficult to win.” 1Barcelona71014 La Ligalast_img

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