x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

More than a two-horse race so far this season in Primera Liga

The emergence of Levante and Sevilla early in the season have makes La Liga more than a just about Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Barcelona's magic is not working, and that can only be good for the Primera Liga.

The consensus at the start of this season was that Barca and Real Madrid would be too dominant and win every game apart from when they played each other.

But Real have already been defeated by Levante, and while Barcelona are still unbeaten they have been held in three of their eight games.

The Catalans were frustrated for long periods by the Czech side, Plzen, last week in the Champions League, and failed to break down Sevilla at the weekend when they relinquished the top spot in the league to Levante. They also fell behind a free-scoring Real, who hammered Malaga 4-0 away.

Sevilla remain unbeaten after eight games and are in fourth place, their best start in 65 years, but they only have one man to thank for that after Javi Varas, their goalkeeper, kept Iniesta, Messi, Xavi and co out time and time again. Barca had 22 shots on goal to Sevilla's five.

Varas, 29, a Sevillan who has been the club's No 2 for most of his career until taking over from Andres Palop last season, was unbeatable. Sevilla picked up eight yellow cards and two reds as Fernando Navarro and Freddie Kanoute were sent off, but they won't care as they held Barca at Camp Nou.

Barca were finally awarded a penalty in the 93rd minute. Messi struck the ball well and to the left of Varas, but the goalkeeper dived and pushed it wide, stunning the 82,743 crowd.