La Liga Loca’s half-term report: Atleti still awesome, Barca must (and will) do better
Once again, it’s time for some ratings and the usual arguments around how in Hades Real Madrid can earn fewer back-slaps than Eibar – something that is certain to happen over the next few days. The answer is ‘relativity’ dummies. Anyway. It’s the halfway point in La Liga, so here’s LLL glibly encapsulating the hard work and toil of some decent football professionals in a few lines of text.
LLL still hasn’t got a decent grip on Almería. Then again, the blog is still feeling its way into Chelsea and Manchester City falling into the big club brigade when all that immediately comes to mind for the two English teams is John Spencer and Shaun Goater. The southern side (Almeria, not Chelsea) may have three points fewer than the team that stayed up last season and lie in the bottom three, but Juan Ignacio Jiménez, who recently took over the helm, should be able to get enough goals out of Tomer Hemed to stay up. Doing the usual is a fair reflection of the season so far.
Athletic Bilbao (13th)
Rolling up sleeves and everyone mucking in has traditionally been the secret of Athletic’s recent success. So only Merciful Zeus himself could possibly know what has been going on in San Mamés this season to see Athletic with just 19 points, a whopping 17 fewer than at the halfway point last season. The defence and Gorka Iraizoz in goal have looked wobbly, the midfield sluggish. And the attack? Aside from Aritz Aduriz, a complete shambles, with just three strikes between eight players who have played in the front line this season. LLL is looking at you, Iker Muniain, for some answers.
Atlético Madrid (3rd)
It's been job done on so many fronts for Diego Simeone already. Beat Real Madrid repeatedly – check. Get the juices of his players flowing again after a historically brilliant campaign last year – check. Assimilate the loss of Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois and break in new players – check. Be within touching distance of the league leaders – check. Oh, and breeze through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, as well. Check. Check. Check.
Because of all the drama and tiffs off the field to do with institutional issues and Leo Messi’s supposed unsettled state, it's tempting to write off the first half of the campaign for Barça. But the team have a near-watertight defence and are only just beginning to get the rather scary-looking front three firing. However, failing to beat Getafe, Real Sociedad and Celta Vigo this season is a tad embarrassing so LLL is going to be tough on Luis Enrique. And then run off at a great pace while Gerard Piqué wheezes behind in pursuit, before being distracted by the opening night of a new discotheque.
Celta Vigo (11th)
The Galicians weren't that far from getting a gold star and no homework for the week after a scintillating start to the season crowned by the defeat of Barcelona, at the Camp Nou no less. But from that moment, Celta have had one of the worst runs imaginable in La Liga with just two points picked up from the past nine Primera matches. Confusingly, Celta are still two points better off at the halfway point than last year’s version, leaving LLL not quite sure where to turn, but to give some marks out for the first quarter of the year.
Now this is where the ratings are going to look odd, with Córdoba ranked alongside some table toppers for the season so far. But everything is relative. Even time. Especially when watching Ligue 1. Córdoba have reached 19 games and are not in the relegation zone – quite a feat and largely down to the incoming manager, Miroslav Djukic, who makes Diego Simeone look like Mr Fairbrother from Hi-de-Hi. One for the kids, that...
A side not so much flirting with disaster, rather posting the contents of its undies draw on Craigslist. Destitute Deportivo are a side desperately short of talent, inspiration, goals and are weighed down by Helder Postiga, who has contributed just a single league strike to the cause. LLL was hoping for a little bit more from the side and can now see why the since-fired Fernando Vásquez was concerned over the summer that there simply wasn’t the quality at the club to stay up.