Some clubs dream of trophies and glory, others are just happy to be invited to the party. Once you have arrived at the top table, the pressure is on to stay. In an unpredictable start to the current La Liga season, it is not just at the top where the surprises have come with some unlikely names battling it out to avoid relegation.
Beating the Bookies
The bookmakers aren’t often far wrong, but the early signs are that they might be this year. The promoted teams were heavily tipped to make an immediate return to the Segunda Division, but clearly Granada and Osasuna haven’t read the script.
Granada have sprung the biggest surprise so far, currently sitting fourth and currently in the Champions League qualification spots. Amongst their scalps already this season are Barcelona and now they have a kinder run of games to come.
El Sadar is a fortress for Osasuna where they are unbeaten in over 18 months. They have managed to add away results too and the tireless running of forward Chimmy Avila has set the standard for the rest of the side to follow.
Sink or Swim
On the back of their best ever La Liga finish last season, Leganes have shocked many with their early season form, collecting only two points from eight game – leaving them rock bottom. The combination of not finding the net and zero clean sheets is a recipe for disaster. Anotherside not faring so well are Real Mallorca. Pre-season favourites for the drop, they find themselves in the bottom three, but by no means cut adrift.
Sinking like a stone after a good start are Alaves, sitting one place above the drop zone. Their only points in their last 5 games was at home to Mallorca and will hoping they can arrest their slide.
Sacked or Just Surviving
Eight games in, but already there the sack race has its’ second casualty. David Gallego at Espanyol has been removed after plummeting to 19th in the table. Without a win at home this season, the recent defeat in Mallorca was the final straw, despite their positive Europa League start.
Celta Vigo boss Fran Escriba will also have been having sleepless nights this international break. Celta’s lack of goals has haunted them with only five in eight games. Iago Aspas, who netted 20 goals in 27 games last season, only got off the mark this time around last weekend and Celta fans will be hoping that goal is the start of a run that pulls them clear.
Real Betis have been entertaining for the neutral with 27 goals in their 8 games so far and the only clean sheet for any side came in their 0-0 draw with Osasuna. They will be looking nervously over their shoulders and must plug the leaks in defence if they are to beat the drop.
After Eibar’s poor start, many wondered whether José Luis Mendilibar’s magic was finally wearing off. Just one point in their first four games meant people had begun to question whether this might be the year that Eibar drop out of La Liga. However, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 victory against Sevilla kickstarted their season and with eight points in their last four games, Eibar look to be climbing out of trouble.
Eight games down and 30 to go, the battle to avoid relegation is set to continue. La Liga is a rollercoaster ride that, no matter how bumpy it gets, nobody will want to get off.
Twitter: Alex Fitzpatrick