So often dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid, the level of genuine competition for the league title in Spain is often called into question, however, the start of the 2018-19 campaign in LaLiga has been anything but straightforward for the two habitual favourites.
Real Madrid have been struggling to find their form and rhythm under Julen Lopetegui of late, particularly finding the back of the net, while many believe the team is missing a vital component following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in the summer. Especially after the club failed to splash out on a stellar replacement for the Portuguese superstar.
Meanwhile, Barcelona haven’t been able to make the most of the recent slump by their arch-rivals, after making a flying start to their own campaign. Winless in their last four LaLiga games, with three draws and one defeat, manager Ernesto Valverde is very much in need of a victory that will get his team back to their best.
Currently fifth in the table, Real Madrid take on Levante this weekend knowing anything less than victory will be unacceptable, making for a potentially frosty atmosphere at the Santiago Bernabeu in Saturday’s midday game. Three defeats, one draw and zero goals scored, Lopetegui finds himself walking a managerial tightrope, if those numbers don’t change soon.
Given the lack of goals, in play betting markets are bound to be busy during the game as Real Madrid seek to break their scoring hoodoo against Levante. The burden of pressure will most keenly be felt by Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, while Marco Asensio also needs to chip in more regularly with goals, if the 22-year-old is to meet the demands expected of him.
Despite currently being fifth in LaLiga, a win for Real Madrid against Levante could still put them temporarily top of the table, giving Lopetegui a little bit more time and breathing space. Most fans accept that trophies aren’t won in October, but at the same time, they are concerned that this season could turn into a disaster for the club, if results don’t change for the better.
Playing in this Saturday’s final fixture of the day, Barcelona face the challenge of knocking Sevilla off their current perch as LaLiga’s unlikely leaders, with the Andalusian side having not only recovered from a sluggish start to the campaign, but also making the most of the dip in form by the usual suspects in the race for the title. There’s no margin for error from Valverde’s side in this game.
Pablo Machin’s tenure got off to a bumpy start at Sevilla, with just one victory from the opening four games of the season, but four straight league wins have deservedly lifted them to the summit. Holding that position will be a tall order, especially at the Camp Nou home of Barcelona, but having demolished Real Madrid just a few weeks ago, there’s belief at Sevilla that anything is possible.
Despite the disappointing recent run of form at Barcelona, their talisman Lionel Messi has shown that he’s as reliable as ever, even if there have been doubts about the team performances as a whole. The Argentine star has already registered 6 goals and 4 assists so far this term, although it’s hard to shake the sensation there’s always more to come and even better displays he could be producing, with the aid of his teammates.
With El Clasico looming on the horizon at the end of October, Barcelona and Real Madrid desperately need a change of fortunes, making their respective games this weekend all the more important, of Spanish football’s clash of titans on Sunday 28th at the Camp Nou.