x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Where are Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Primera Liga this season?

The stranglehold of the top two teams has yet to take grip in the points standings but it should be a minor aberration.

Roberto Soldado, No 9, celebrates his goal that put Valencia top of the table.
Roberto Soldado, No 9, celebrates his goal that put Valencia top of the table.

Take a good look at the Primera Liga table today because it will not be like that for long. Teams have only played three or four matches, but it is still a surprise that Barcelona and Real Madrid do not occupy the top two places.

Barca dropped points with their 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad 10 days ago (and looked frail at the back four days later when they drew 2-2 at home to AC Milan in the Champions League).

The Catalans roared back to form with an 8-0 victory over Osasuna on Saturday which included a Lionel Messi hat-trick. Barca were five up at half time as they dominated with wonderful, flawless football. The result does little for the credibility of the Primera Liga, not that Barca fans were complaining.

And they were celebrating the following night as Real Madrid slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Levante thanks to a second-half Arouna Kone goal. That is Kone, the on-loan Sevilla striker who had scored just one league goal in 40 starts spread over four seasons for the Andalusians.

Levante held Real 0-0 at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium last season and beat them 2-0 in a Copa del Rey match (they had lost the first leg 8-0). The Valencians were equally obdurate and industrious this time.

Jose Mourinho left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, but introduced his star player with the score goalless at half time and his side down to 10 men after Sami Khedira was harshly sent off for a second yellow. Despite their dominance, it made little difference.

It was Real's first defeat away since January's loss at Osasuna and left Madrid cursing. Defeats are costly for the big two because there are so few of them.

Valencia and promoted Real Betis head the table with three wins from as many games. Valencia survive and prosper despite selling their best players.

They have lost David Silva, David Villa and Juan Mata, three World Cup winners, in the past 15 months but they have won every game so far this season.

Whether they will be saying that this time tomorrow is another matter - they face Barca at home tonight. Betis are an even bigger surprise, though their 3-2 win at Athletic Bilbao said as much about the home team who appear to be struggling for identity (and points) under Marcelo Bielsa, their new larger-than-life coach.


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