Rollercoaster start leaves Spanish League awaiting serious contenders - GulfToday

Rollercoaster start leaves Spanish League awaiting serious contenders


Real Madrid’s players take part in a training session in Madrid on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Madrid: 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.

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. Madrid were held 2-2 by Club Brugge in the Champions League in midweek. If Granada were watching, they may have concluded there is little to fear this weekend. Promoted after finishing second in Segunda last term, Diego Martinez’s side have made a remarkable start, even if their coach feigns ignorance about their heady place in the table. By then, few would expect Granada still to be among the leading pack. Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao look better equipped to last the distance and replace Valencia in the top four.

Agence France-Presse

Spanish League fixtures (GMT)

On Saturday: Leganes vs Levante (1100), Real Madrid vs Granada (1400), Valencia vs Alaves (1630), Osasuna vs Villarreal (1900)

On Sunday:  Mallorca vs Espanyol (1000), Celta Vigo vs Athletic Bilbao (1200), Real Valladolid vs Atletico Madrid (1400), Real Sociedad vs Getafe (1630), Barcelona vs Sevilla (1900)

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