The first two weeks of action in the 2017-18 La Liga season are in the books, and while there may not have been many surprises thus far, there certainly were some. Let’s take a look at week two’s matches and how they may or may not be cause for concern compared to our preseason league predictions:
- Real Sociedad 3, Villareal 0
- Real Betis 2, Celta Vigo 1
Real Sociedad has looked every bit the contender for a UCL berth thus far. Though they may have struggled to put away Celta Vigo in week one, Villarreal proved far less of a challenge, as La Real controlled possession easily against the overmatched. To top it off, Xabi Prieto marked his 500th appearance for the league leaders with a goal. Though only two weeks into the season, the fact that Villarreal looked so out-of-sorts is perhaps one of the biggest surprises, as we had them pegged as a contender for a UCL berth.
Neither Real Betis nor Celta Vigo have impressed so far, as was evident in Friday’s match.
- Barcelona 2, Alavés 0
- Levante 2, Deportivo 2
- Girona 1, Malaga 0
- Atletico Madrid 5, Las Palmas 1
Saturday’s matches provided both the expected and the surprising. Barcelona have yet to be seriously tested in the opening weeks of La Liga, playing the likes of Real Betis (home) and Alavés (away). Even if Valverde wasn’t happy with his squad’s effort, they sit behind Real Sociedad—in standings only—on the strength of total goals, 6 being greater than Blaugranes‘ 4 (though both squads boast a goal differential of +4).
The surprises of the day included Levante’s draw (a strong candidate for relegation), nabbing four points in two outings—including their week one dispatching of Villarreal. As such, they are one of a number of squads just outside the top four spots in the table. Then there’s Atletico’s slaughter in Gran Canaria—Atleti simply could not miss the net—converting fully 62.5% of their shots into goals. The fact that Girona snatched three points has to be heartening for fans, who may have feared their stay in the top division would be a short one.
- Athletic Bilbao 1, Eibar 0
- Leganés 1, Espanyol 0
- Sevilla 1, Getafe 0
- Real Madrid 2, Valencia 2
After achieving only a scoreless draw with Getafe in week one, Athletic Bilbao looked much sharper Sunday. Perhaps squeezing past Panathinaikos in the Europa League playoffs provided the boost of confidence Los Leones needed to start playing at the level expected of them in the league.
A much bigger surprise was Leganés’ second consecutive La Liga win, by identical 1-0 scores. A strong candidate for relegation at season’s start, they find themselves, instead, with six points, and near the top of the table—sitting behind Barca and Real Sociedad only on account of goal differential. Even though they played overwhelmingly weaker opponents in terms of talent in Betis and Alavés, the fact that they dispatched them with ease and a lack of drama is something that will please Valverde.
The biggest surprise of the weekend, however, might have been Los Blancos‘ failure to pick up a full three points against Valencia, despite Marco Asensio‘s brace, and regardless of playing at Santiago Bernabéu. Still, Asensio’s goal on 82 minutes kept Real’s title party—they were presented their 33rd league title trophy just before kick-off—from falling completely flat. As a result of drawing only a single point, however, Zinedine Zidane’s world-beaters find themselves off the top of the table, though admittedly, there’s still time to turn things around.
Previewing La Liga week three
A few storylines to look for this coming weekend:
Friday—Leganés look for a third consecutive win as they face Getafe at Butarque.
Saturday—Valencia and Atletico clash in what could be an important battle for early season position. In other games, Real Madrid and Barcelona should pick up easy wins against Levante and Espanyol, respectively, and Sevilla aim to celebrate their homecoming with three points—courtesy Eibar.
Sunday—Real Sociedad strive to continue their hot start against Deportivo, and Athletic Bilbao look to pick up three more points at home against Girona.
Villareal set their sights on turning their standing against Real Betis around, and Alavés and Celta Vigo battle for their first points of the season.
Monday—Málaga and Las Palmas face-off for the first points of the term.
Though it’s only week three, teams with no scores to boast—Villarreal, Alavés, Celta Vigo, Málaga, and Las Palmas—need to start nabbing points, pronto! Similarly, it’s never too soon for UCL berth contenders to start separating themselves from the pack. For a few other clubs (Villarreal, we’re looking at you), if they don’t start winning games, they could fall too far behind to catch up, even at this stage in the game.