The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

Opinion

Hispanophile: Notes from the La Liga season so far

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Roar Rookie
25th September, 2021
5

This is the first of what I intend to be a regular column on Spanish football.

I watch the A-League and a bit of Arsenal (I am not sure why I still do that), but La Liga has been my passion since I started watching the Champions League on SBS in the late 1990s and loved the style of Spanish clubs.

Then there was the extraordinary UEFA Cup final of 2001, when the minnow Alaves took the mighty Liverpool to extra time, eventually losing an amazing game 4-5. So, here goes.

After Atlético Madrid’s narrow triumph last season, the 2021-22 edition of La Liga promises to be another tight contest. Atlético have brought back much the same squad, with some new attacking options to back up the increasingly creaky Luis Suárez. Ángel Correa, Koke and Marcos Llorente remain key to Atlético’s hopes.

Real Madrid’s geriatricos will, as usual, be in the hunt and have started the season in cracking form. Karim Benzema is one of the form players on the planet and the new boy Eduardo Camavinga looks a class act. They’ve hardly missed Toni Kroos or Luka Modrić so far, but tougher tests lie ahead.

Sevilla has arguably the deepest squad in La Liga and are not for the first time in recent years a good chance of winning it for the first time since 1946. Can they do it? Well, I don’t know if they can win the big games against the Madrid clubs – I’m not sure they believe it yet – but their depth might well stand them in good stead.

Advertisement

Sometimes the game away to Osasuna on a cold, wet Tuesday night in Pamplona just after an international break is as important as the top-of-the-table showdown. The 3-1 win at home to Valencia mid-week bodes well.

I suppose Barcelona deserve a mention. They won’t win the league this season.

Pedro Gonzalez

(Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

I have my doubts they can get out of their Champions League group. They’re a mess. How could they be anything else? More than $1 billion in debt, with their GOAT now playing in Paris and a coach nobody likes but who they can’t afford to get rid of.

Barça just scraped a 1-1 draw at home to Granada last weekend and the less said about the performance in the 0-0 away to Cádiz in mid-week, the better. But for all that, the next generation looks very promising.

The wunderkinds Pedri and Ansu Fati will, barring injury or alien abduction, be among the best in the world in a few years. The likes of Gavi, Sergiño Dest, Ronald Araújo, Eric García and Ousmane Dembélé might form part of a formidable outfit in the not-too-distant future.

Who else? One of Villarreal, Real Sociedad, Valencia or Real Betis may well snag a Champions League spot this season on the back of Barça’s dysfunction.

Valencia looks to have been renewed by the dark arts of their new coach, José Bordalás. If he who should not be named can fix up their dodgy defence, they may surprise a few.

Advertisement

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

UEFA Cup winner Villarreal is always dangerous. Look out for Gerard Moreno, the best Spanish marksman around, and the gun young centre back Pau Torres.

Real Betis, so long a model of baffling inconsistency, have really got their act together under the steady hand of Manuel Pellegrini.

Speaking of wunderkinds, this might be the season Real Sociedad take the next step. The conveyor belt in San Sebastián keeps on churning out brilliant young midfielders and wingers.

Advertisement

Keep an aye on the unpronounceable winger Ander Barrenetxea and the pivot Martín Zubimendi, groomed by B team coach Xabi Alonso and much likened to his former mentor. La Real’s 3-2 win at Granada in mid-week, Mat Ryan’s debut for the club, was my game of the season so far.

Everybody’s second team Levante have started the season in typically erratic form. The excellent 3-3 draw at home to Real Madrid was closely followed by a calamitous 0-2 loss at home to Celta. Even so, their loveable journeymen José Campaña and José Luis Morales are always worth watching.

Hasta la proxima, amigos.

close