This season, la Liga BBVA brings once again the battle between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid with the unknown chance of Valencia, Atletico or some other team making it difficult for these two clubs that have fought for the title over the last few years. It is a season also marked by a financial situation that has led to there being less movement in the market than in previous years and most of all less investment.
The season has begun with an average of, up to now, 2.66 goals per game, the second lowest if you compare it with the other big European Leagues and behind the French league. According to Opta statistics there have been a total of 77 goals, of which 39% of those achieved from set pieces, a much higher percentage than in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and especially in Calcio; which has a percentage up to 10 points less.
Barcelona leads the table; they have won all of their games and have also been the team who have scored the most with 8 goals. At the other end of the table is Granada and Osasuna with only one goal; sitting in the relegation zone. Valladolid and Deportivo recently promoted, have made a good start reaching a high position in the league, whilst Celta have moved up positions thanks to their victory against Osasuna last week.
In the ranking of top goal scorers, Messi heads the list with 4 goals, one more than Higuain, Falcao, Jorge Molina and Hemed.
As mentioned, Barcelona leads the table in what can be considered a good start to the season for Tito Vilanova on the bench, playing with the classical 1-4-3-3 and a similar kind of game as in the last few years, with dominant possession of the ball and pitch, building up play with determination in the last third and pressing high. With Jordi Alba and Alex Song as new additions, rotations are constant at the start of this new season. In fact, only Valdes, Dani Alves, Cesc and Messi have been permanent starters in the first three league games. In the game against Real Sociedad the score at half time was already 4-1, with a goal in the second half by David Villa on his return to fitness. In the complicated visit to Pamplona, the ´cules´ had to wait to the last 15 minutes to win the game with another spectacular performance from Messi, who scored 2 goals in five minutes. The third consecutive victory came against Valencia, with the only goal scored by Adriano in a corner kick, one of the most spectacular goals so far in the competition.
Along with Barcelona, in Champions League places, we find three teams that are doing really well, with 7 points in three games. Caparros’ Mallorca has had a good start to the season playing with a 1-4-4-2 that, depending on Victor Casadesus, can be changed on occasions into a 1-4-2-3-1 or a 1-4-5-1 depending on the game situation. They have won both home games, against Espanyol and Real Sociedad, and they have obtained a valuable draw at ´La Rosaleda´, having had in all their games up to now less possession of the ball than their rival team. Ex player of Atletico Madrid Antonio Lopez is a permanent left fullback and the ex Espanyol Javi Marquez form the pair of centerbacks with Pina. On the wings are Nsue and Michael Pereira, who has shown a powerful shot with his right foot although he hasn’t scored yet. In front Victor Casadesus and Hemed are showing great understanding playing together. The Israeli has been impressive so far, scoring three goals in the first two weeks and demonstrating great quality in his movements and finishings. Malaga for their part play with a 1-4-2-3-1 trying to keep possession of the ball. In midfield is Toulalan and Camacho; Joaquin, Isco, Eliseu y Portillo exchanging positions between the lines and Seba Fernandez, who started playing regularly but now has more competition with the young starlet Fabrice and the new signings Saviola and Roque Santa Cruz. They have had some problems defending long balls behind their centerbacks and fullbacks, although the goalkeeper Willy Caballero has been secure and determined so far. In the first game of the season in ‘Balaidos’ the 16 year old Fabrice Olinga scored the first goal of La Liga 2012/2013 in his debut after finishing a counterattack launched by Eliseu and Buonanotte, both entering as substitutes. In the following game against Mallorca it was another player, Juami, coming from the bench, who scored after an assist from Portillo.
Onward Rayo Vallecano
Rayo Vallecano started the League with a difficult win at home against Granada after Trashorras’ goal from a free kick in extra time. Their usual formation is a 1-4-1-4-1 with some new signings such as the goalkeeper Ruben, Nicki Bille in front and others like Jordi Amat, Jose Carlos or Adrian. In the second game they displayed a 1-3-5-2 with Javi Fuego playing as holding midfielder and the young Leo Baptistao very active in attack scoring a goal and giving an assist. Although they played away, Rayo had 62% of ball possession. Against Sevilla they once again played with the same formation, but in this case Sevilla were superior, launching dangerous counterattacks and even missing two penalties taken by Negredo and Rakitic.
The other three teams from Madrid are midtable although Atletico de Madrid with one game in hand due to the European Supercup final against Chelsea. After two league games, they have displayed different formations. In their first game against Levante, Simeone played a 1-5-4-1 with Godin, Miranda and Cata Diaz, Getafe ex player, as centrebacks with Silvio and the Argentinean Cristian Rodriguez as fullbacks. Tiago and Gabi in midfield with Arda Turan and Adrian behind Falcao. The game began with an early goal for Levante scored by Nabil El Zhar after a corner, but soon Atletico scored the equalizer from a terrific long distance shot by Arda Turan. Atletico had nearly 70% of ball possession and some clear chances, but in the end the game finished with a draw. In the second game Simeone displayed a 1-4-2-3-1 formation, with Godin and Miranda as centerbacks and Filipe Luis and Juanfran as fullbacks. Mario Suarez replaced Tiago in midfield, with Koke, Arda Turan and Cristian Rodriguez playing behind Falcao, who just after half an hour had already scored a hat trick. It was Atletic Bilbao that had greater ball possession, probably motivated by Atletico’s clear scoreline advantage after just 20 minutes. Atletico de Madrid launched dangerous counterattacks which in many occasions found an inspired Iraizoz making brilliant saves for his team.
Real Madrid has 4 points after a draw at home against Valencia, a loss away against Getafe and a win at home against Granada. They display a 1-4-2-3-1 formation with a high ball possession percentage (68%), but the bad start of the league season has taken them 5 points behind Barcelona, at 9th position in the table. When they play Benzema and Higuain in front the formation can change into a 1-4-2-4, with Ronaldo and Di Maria or Callejon in the wings and Alonso, more defensive, alongside Ozil in the midfield. In the last minutes against Getafe they ended up playing with a defence of three, allowing Getafe to launch more counterattacks and score their second goal. The third game against Granada, in which Luka Modric made his debut, was a comfortable victory for Real Madrid with a final score of 3-0 with lots of chances. After 3 games, Higuain has already scored 3 goals.
At the bottom of the table there are some surprises as such as Athletic Bilbao and Valencia. Athletic Bilbao has lost 2 games and conceded 9 goals, and although they had a high ball possession (around 60%) they were not able to create clear chances to score. In the first game at home against Betis they were losing 3-0 after just 30 minutes, but they managed to draw with goals from De Marcos and a double from San Jose, but in the end Athletic lost the game 3-5.
The new Valencia
Playing away against Real Madrid and Barcelona in just three weeks wasn’t an easy start of the season for Valencia, with the home game against the just promoted Deportivo de la Coruna in between. Valencia normally displays a 1-4-2-3-1 formation, with less ball possession than the rivals and trying to counterattack. Pellegrino has repeated the eleven starters in the first two games, with Joao Pereira, Gago and Guardado as the most significant changes in relation to last season’s team. In the first game against Real Madrid Jonas scored the equaliser from a set piece, and against Deportivo Jonas-Soldado paired up was outstanding, but in the end they drew the game after conceding three goals from set pieces. In Barcelona, their main changes in the game at the Nou Camp included Rami replacing Ricardo Costa (sent off in the previous game) in the center of the defence, Albelda in place of the injured Gago and Valencia’s last signing, Ali Cissokho, making his debut replacing Mathieu. Barcelona had more chances in the first half but Diego Alves did well making great saves from Pedro, Messi and Cesc, although could do nothing to stop Adriano’s fantastic shot. In the second half Valencia had more control of the game and created some chances with no success.
La Liga will be back on the 15 of September after the international break.
As long as Rafa does not come back with his magic wand, we will not see any surprises in the end. Same procedure as every year, sorry to say...