This season has seen some brilliant stories in La Liga, with the likes of Valencia and Real Betis enjoying renaissances under new Coaches and therefore increasing the overall competitiveness of the division. However, the unlikeliest of those stories has to be that of Leganes. The small club from the south of Madrid are enjoying only their second-ever season in the top flight, and they are currently lying in fifth place, punching well above their weight.
Sunday’s 1-0 win against Athletic Bilbao continued their brilliant form and was a clear sign of just how far they have come against opponents that are very tough to beat on their day. Butarque is steadily turning into a fortress of sorts for Lega, with a vociferous home support who get behind the team and are clearly relishing their time near the top of La Liga, somewhere they do not belong.
Coach Asier Garitano has done a magnificent job for Los Pepineros. Simply getting them promoted to the Primera was enough, but to then avoid relegation and start this season in such form is something that deserves a lot of credit. The 47-year-old has built on the foundations set last time around, when they stayed up by four points.
Lega are a solid, rigid and very disciplined side, and teams are finding it very hard to score against them. They don’t score many goals, with only eight in nine games this season, but they have built from the back and scored goals when they have needed to. They have only conceded three goals so far, which means that along with Barcelona, they currently have the best defence in Europe. To put that into context, Leganes is a satellite city, famous for its cucumber growing, with a population of only around 186,000.
There is no real standout player in the side as they are very much a team who do not rely too much on the individual, although moments of magic like Claudio Beauvue’s solo goal last Sunday are certainly welcomed. On the other hand, goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar has been excellent since his arrival from Sporting Gijon over the summer and the permanent signing of centre-back Dimitris Siovas has maintained stability at the bck.
When asked what the difference was from last season after the game against Athletic, Garitano put it down to a number of factors.
“The team have more talent than last season,” he admitted. “We know more about how to play games and I’m seeing the players doing what they should be doing and making good decisions in games. The truth is that I’m happy with everyone. We train well and that gives us confidence for games.”
Lega are in a fantastic position at this early stage of the campaign, but for Garitano, his main aim will still be to avoid relegation. If his side can continue performing and competing with the big boys half as well as they have been, that should be no problem at all.