Gameweeks 5 & 6 in review

As summer turns into autumn and temperatures start to fall across the Iberian peninsula we had our first round of midweek fixtures in La Liga. In this review we’ll be taking in the fixtures from the weekend as well as Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but rather than focus on three key matches we’ll focus on each team and how they fared specifically.

1. Barcelona 13pts

A disastrous few days for Barcelona as they dropped points at home to Girona and suffered a first loss of the season away at Leganés. Ernesto Valverde rotated his team across both games, which saw 18 different players get minutes on the pitch but whatever the combination on the field Barça lacked fluidity. Despite taking the lead in both games the Catalans couldn’t find the ability to close games out and win ugly as they did to such great effect last year.

2. Real Madrid 13pts

With Barcelona slipping up Real Madrid had the chance to put down a marker for the season and seize top spot but like their rivals they too slipped up. A 1-0 home win against Espanyol with a VAR awarded Asensio goal gave Madrid the win they needed but the team lacked a cutting edge. Gareth Bale was left on the bench with one eye on the midweek fixture against Sevilla but the Welshman could do nothing to stop the Andalusians as they breezed past last year’s Champions League winners. The Sánchez-Pizjuán is never an easy place for away teams to go but Madrid were blown away in the first half as they struggled to find their rhythm. Sevilla were two goals to the good within 20 minutes and added a third before half time, much to Lopetegui’s consternation. Luka Modrić had a goal disallowed for the slimmest of offsides in the second half but whatever Lopetegui tried there was no way through the compact Sevilla defence.

3. Atlético Madrid 11pts

The big winners of the weekend, Atléti saw their slow start to the season forgiven and a seven point deficit between them and the league leaders was cut to just two before the Madrid derby this weekend. Getafe were brushed aside thanks to Thomas Lemar and a routine win away at Huesca meant that Los Colchoneros recorded their second and third wins and clean sheets of the season, which can’t be a coincidence. Diego Simeone’s success in Madrid has been based on solidity at the back and if they are consistent defensively the new additions in midfield could provide the spark to make Atlético challengers for the league title.

4. Alavés 11pts

The Basque team continued their good start to the season picking up another four points in the past week. A 1-5 win away at Rayo Vallecano was aided by a needless sending off for Abdoulaye Ba and crowned by two fantastic goals by Ibai Gómez. This was followed by a last minute equaliser at home against Getafe in a turgid match but Abelardo won’t mind how the points are won. Abelardo seems to have decided on a system and first eleven based on a disciplined defensive block, two hard working forwards and the creative burden left to Ibai and Jony on either wing. The lack of rotation could result in some tiredness towards the Christmas period but, having got off to a good start, Alavés will be aiming for a European place come May.

5. Sevilla 10pts

Sevilla look to be flying after a mixed start to the season. These matches were the 13th and 14th of a season that started in July for the Andalusian team and they seem to be hitting their stride. 14 goals in six days after a 5-1 win in the Europa League was supplemented by a 2-6 win away at Levante and an incredible 3-0 home win against Real Madrid shows that this team definitely isn’t lacking firepower. Pablo Machín doesn’t seem to have settled on a first team or even a definite formation but with so many games packed into such a tight schedule this can be forgiven. Ben Yedder, Silva and Sarabia have the ability to score against any team, especially with Ever Banega sitting deep and picking out through balls, so Machín could do worse than focusing on his defence as we head into the autumn.

6. Espanyol 10pts

A 1-0 loss and a 1-0 win is a microcosm of Espanyol’s season. Some good wins followed by tight losses has resulted in a surprisingly good start to the season under Rubi. Despite losing a number of first team players over the summer this Espanyol team seems much more focused than last season, where Quique Sánchez Flores seemed jaded and frustrated by a lack of finances to add to his squad. Despite losing at Real Madrid, Espanyol fans will have been heartened by their ability to limit Madrid’s chances in front of goal and this was followed by a clean sheet at home to Eibar midweek. Eibar rotated heavily and didn’t pose much of a threat but a win is a win and Espanyol will be looking to continue their fine start and the good form shown by both defence and attack is testament to Rubi’s ability as a coach.

7. Celta Vigo 9pts

Celta are another team that lost players over the summer but this hasn’t stopped them enjoying a decent start to the season. New boss Antonio Mohamed has chopped and changed his starting eleven but with Iago Aspas and Maxi Gómez up front Celta will never be lacking goalscorers. Two draws: one disappointing capitulation after going 2-0 up at home against Rayo, which ended 3-3, and the other encouraging, a 1-1 draw away at Valencia – highlights the schizophrenic nature of this Celta team. Mohamed played with two different systems in the two matches, 442 against Rayo and 532 against Valencia and both systems highlighted the problems in the squad. In order to support the two star strikers Mohamed has to sacrifice some defensive stability, and in order to reinforce the defence he has to sacrifice creativity in midfield. It will be an interesting season for Celta and depending on form and injuries the team could end up anywhere from the Europa League positions to just avoiding relegation.

8. Real Betis 9pts

An unassuming start to the season has seen people ask what happened to the Betis of last season? The freewheeling attacking roadshow that sent the team from Seville into Europe has found goals hard to come by this year but that may be down to their opposition rather than themselves. A good 0-1 win away at Girona followed a 2-2 home draw against Athletic Club and showed fans that the team could in fact score in two consecutive matches but no one has scored more than one goal in the league so far this season. Quique Setién has tired a number of different attacking combinations but Betis don’t have a superstar number 9 like some of the teams around them do. Loren, Sergio León and Tonny Sanabria have all had opportunities to cement themselves in the Betis first team but none of them seem to have the ability required to make the team European contenders year after year.

9. Villarreal 8pts

An awful 0-0 in the Valencian community derby against Valencia at the weekend gave Villarreal the first of four points this week but all of the focus will be on their 0-3 away win at Athletic Club on Wednesday. The San Mamés is traditionally a difficult place to go and Real Madrid have already dropped points there this season but Pablo Fornals drove his team on to a great win. The opening goal came from nowhere as Fornals picked up a long ball on the halfway line and half volleyed an incredible first time shot over a stranded Unai Simon in the Athletic Club goal. Fornals has consistently performed since moving from Málaga the summer before last and his versatility across the midfield provides Javi Calleja with a potent weapon behind a front two of Gerard Moreno and Carlos Bacca or Karl Toko Ekambi. The losses of Rodri and Samu Castillejo will make this a difficult season for the Yellow Submarine but they’re not the first big names to depart the club and they always seem to find adequate replacements.

10. Real Sociedad 8pts

Four points against two promoted sides doubles Real Sociedad’s total for the season. Asier Garitano has been frustrated by injuries to key players and inconsistent performances but his team seems to be playing with a determination that had disappeared last season under Eusebio Sacristán. A 0-1 away win at Huesca seems routine but was marred by two entirely avoidable red cards shown to Juanmi and Theo Hernández. Both players will have had a severe talking to from their manager but the team held out for the win. A 2-2 draw at home to Rayo will be seen as disappointing after the team from San Sebastián took the lead through Jon Bautista. A returning Willian José grabbed an equaliser which is a positive for Garitano’s team but the former Leganés manager needs to instill a sense of discipline in his team, who seem to concede too many unnecessary goals and too many unnecessary red cards.

11. Getafe 8pts

A home loss to Atléti and an away draw at Alavés mean that Getafe haven’t surprised anyone this week but that seems to be Getafe’s modus operandi since returning to La Liga. Every opposition team know that they will face a physical battle and there are no easy points won against El Geta. Djené has been pushed slightly higher into midfield to provide even more physical presence but the fact that he has to play out of position perhaps highlights a lack of depth within the squad. Ángel and Jorge Molina have started the season well and the two veteran strikers can be relied on to provide a reasonable amount of goals but Getafe fans might be hoping that summer signings Jaime Mata and Sergi Guardiola will be able to provide more of a spark in the minutes they get. Iván Alejo’s red card made things difficult for his club but the fact that he is the first option of the bench might start Pepe Bordalás thinking about making some signings to reinforce his midfield in January.

12. Girona 8pts

An historic 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou was followed by a 0-1 home loss to Real Betis but  Eusebio Sacristán’s team have started the season brightly, especially considering the lack of reinforcements coming in over the summer. The fact that Stuani and Portu are still leading the line for Girona is a surprise but fans will be happy to see them repeating last year’s incredible form. Youngster Pedro Porro has impressed after choosing Girona ahead of other much bigger teams and the consistency of formation and tactics despite changing manager are signs that Girona are a team on the up.

13. Eibar 7pts

A win and a loss for the Armeros as José Luis Mendilibar rotated his squad heavily between matches. A classic Eibar performance of high pressing and physicality won the points against Leganés but a team bereft of creativity and ideas lost in a dismal game at Espanyol. On loan Barcelona youngsters Marc Cardona and Marc Cucurella started the away game in Catalunya but neither impressed, nor did new signing Sergio Álvarez, who couldn’t replicate Pape Diop’s energetic display against Lega. Mendilibar has a particular style, which demands a lot from his players and if the team continues to suffer injuries then Eibar could struggle. Pedro Leon’s absence is still being felt because, although Orellana provides an energy and chaos factor on the wing, there is a severe lack of playmaker within the squad.

14. Valladolid 6pts

After a barren first four matches Real Valladolid are suddenly in the goals. An incredible 3-3 draw away to Celta was followed by a first win of the season at home, where Levante were put to the sword 2-1. Having performed well defensively in their first four matches of the season, Valladolid fans will be pleased to see forwards Óscar Plano and Enes Ünal amongst the goals and the fight shown to come back from 2-0 and 3-1 down against Celta is encouraging. If Valladolid can keep the defensive solidity that they’ve shown in the early stages of the season and add some consistency to their attacking then they may surprise some people and keep their heads above water.

15. Athletic Club 6pts

Despite some good performances early in the season Athletic Club find themselves languishing in 15th place after six matches. The Basque giants will be kicking themselves for letting a two goal lead slip away at Betis but they weren’t helped by a sending off for captain Markel Susaeta. They followed this with a 0-3 home loss to Villarreal where they were embarrassed by Pablo Fornals. Injuries to key players have disrupted the season somewhat but Toto Berizzo knows his team have the quality to perform much better than they have done so far. Aduriz should be returning from injury soon and an attacking quartet of Aduriz, Raúl García, Iñaki Williams and Iker Muniain is an exciting proposition but the team need to perform to a higher level with a much greater degree of consistency than they have shown so far.

16. Valencia 5pts

After the positivity of last season Valencia fans must be asking themselves what has gone so wrong over the summer? Some good additions to the squad were crowned by the return of Gonçalo Guedes, who most people felt could help power Los Che towards the champions league places again this season. Despite the new signings, Mercelino’s squad still looks thin and injuries and suspensions have meant that settling on a first eleven has proved difficult, especially now that the team are juggling continental competition with the domestic league. The drab 0-0 draw against Villarreal highlighted the importance of Geoffrey Kondogbia to the team, as his energy in midfield was sorely missed. Captain Dani Parejo was sent off and subsequently banned for the 1-1 draw against Celta, where a heavily rotated team struggled again despite Michy Batshuayi putting them into the lead. Marcelino will need to start coaxing some better performances from his squad soon because the Valencia fans are notoriously impatient and if the crowd turns against a manager at the Mestalla it’s almost impossible to win back their trust.

17. Levante 4pts

Levante’s brilliant start to the season is looking further and further away after being demolished 2-6 at home to Sevilla and giving fellow relegation candidates Real Valladolid their first win of the season. After looking so compact and disciplined defensively in the first game of the season against Betis, Levante looked a different team completely as Sevilla tore through them. The suspended Coke was much missed as his experience would have been particularly useful against his former team. Nikola Vukčević was sent off in the loss to Valladolid and his red card preceded the goal by only two minutes. How a team that looked so disciplined only a few games ago can descend into a chaos of individual errors so quickly is a question that Paco López needs to address.

18. Leganés 4pts

Winless and rooted to the bottom of the table and a loss to Eibar at the weekend would have left Mauricio Pellegrino asking when, rather than if he would be leaving the club. However, a remarkable win against Barcelona has injected the club with positivity and Pellegrino will now be looking to build on this result. The Eibar match was one way traffic as Lega conceded possession time and time again before conceding to a goal from Kike after Sergi Enrich hit the bar. The match against Barcelona saw a new formation, new personnel, including former Barcelona defender Rodri Tarín, and a new attitude from Los Pepineros. Despite conceding an early goal courtesy of Coutinho Leganés struck back after half time with a knockout combo of two goals in two minutes to win the game. After looking like the league’s worst team for much of the early season Leganés now have some momentum and Pellegrino needs to harness this in order to get results.

19. Rayo Vallecano 4pts

Last time Rayo were in La Liga they played scintillating, attacking football but this led to them getting picked apart every other weekend and eventually suffering relegation. This year’s Rayo seem to be picking up where they left off. Despite looking like the better team against Alavés and equalising through the lively Raúl de Tomás they ended up on the receiving end of a 1-5 defeat. Defender Ba’s stupid red card left his teammates in the lurch but the team fell apart as a collective after his expulsion. Away to Real Sociedad Rayo were a goal up and came away with a creditable 2-2 draw but club legend and current boss Míchel will know that thrilling football and high scoring draws won’t keep his team up.

20. Huesca 4pts

Another team that has faded after a bright start to the season Huesca are propping up the table and it looks like they could remain there for the rest of the season. The momentum gained from promotion seems to be fading and four consecutive losses, three of which didn’t see them find the back of the net, don’t point towards a team with the ability to compete in La Liga. Leo Franco has a tough job on his hands after Rubi moved on to Espanyol in the summer and he isn’t aided by the lack of quality throughout the squad. We’ve often seen players make the jump from the second division to the first and thrive but Huesca have a lot of players in their ranks that look like second division players. They’re lacking solidity at the back, creativity in midfield and a cutting edge up front and unless something drastic happens to change this then it could be a long season for La Liga’s newest team.

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