3 clubs that are overachieving in the current season | La Liga 2019-20
- A brief look at the top 3 Spanish clubs that have been exceeding expectations this season.
Over the past few seasons, La Liga has been accused of being a two-horse race, with Barcelona and Real Madrid virtually guaranteed to secure the top two spots, leaving the rest to fight it out below them. The 2019-20 season, however, began with some promise as the two heavyweights endured uncertain starts to their campaigns, and hopes started to arise of a new name thrusting itself into the title debate.
Even though normal service has resumed atop the La Liga standings as we move into the second half of the season, Real Madrid and Barcelona have definitely not had an easy run to the top. The battle for European football next season is alive and kicking in Spain, and a few unlikely names are involved. These teams have exceeded expectations in a major way to get to where they are this season and have given football fans a welcome break from the tame title procession that La Liga usually produces.
Here are three teams that have been punching above their weight in the Spanish top flight and are widely expected to finish on a high come the end of the season.
Sevilla welcomed several new faces over the summer, and not all of them were incoming players - a whole host of summer signings followed the returning sporting director Monchi and new manager Julen Lopetegui through the door. As is the case with most clubs undergoing a rebuild of this magnitude, it was widely expected that it would take at least a season for all these new arrivals to form a cohesive unit. And yet, with over half of the season played, the Andalusian club finds itself in prime position for a top-four finish, exceeding everyone’s expectations at the start of the season. In fact, there was even a brief period of time when they topped La Liga before the usual suspects found their feet and clicked into gear.
Sevilla’s showing in the league is even more impressive considering the fact that Lopetegui is relatively inexperienced at club level, and that their first-choice strikers Chicharito and Luuk de Jong only scored eight goals between them this season before the Mexican moved to LA Galaxy in January. However, their less-heralded forwards have been there to pick up the slack, while a settled defensive unit has been fairly successful in keeping goals out at the other end. All things considered, a top-four finish and a place in Europe would be a welcome result come the end of the season, and Lopetegui’s men would no doubt be looking to build on that and challenge the top two in 2020-21.
#2 Real Sociedad
Even though it’s Real Madrid and Barcelona fighting it out at the top of the table yet again, Real Sociedad has arguably been the best team to watch so far this season. In fact, with the Anoeta (now called the Reale Arena) having undergone a redevelopment that has elevated the atmosphere at the stadium, it might even be one of the best places to watch football in Spain. In all fairness, the Basque outfit has given its fans (as well as the neutral watcher) plenty to cheer about by playing a pacy, dynamic, and relentless style of football under coach Imanol Alguacil that sees them on the brink of securing a spot in Europe for next season. However, it’s more than just pace and enthusiasm that has put Real Sociedad in this position - it’s attacking with precision and clarity that has made them such a joy to watch this season.
While every player in the squad is given a lot of freedom to express themselves, they all have a specific function to perform too, which they do with outright commitment. The squad itself features just the right mix of talented Spanish players and foreign imports as well as a great balance of youth and experience. Mikel Oyarzabal (22), Mikel Merino (23), and Igor Zubeldia (22) have been a revelation across the midfield, while 23-year-old French centre-back Robin Le Normand has been a commanding presence at the back. It’s in attacking midfield, however, that Real play their crown jewel. Norway’s Martin Odegaard, now 21, has perhaps been the stand-out midfielder across the entire league and has been showing football fans the world over exactly why Real Madrid signed him as a 16-year-old.
Last season, Getafe came close to securing a Champions League berth despite having a tiny transfer budget, eventually ending up in the Europa League. Competing on multiple fronts is usually disastrous for clubs the size of Getafe as they are usually forced to sell their top talent and lack the financial resources to replace them. That’s why at the start of this season many expected them to crumble under the additional pressure of European competition. And yet, here we are in the middle of February with Getafe preparing to face Ajax in the Europa League Round of 32 while also being on course for their best-ever finish in La Liga as they sit just behind the two big guns in third place at the time of writing, all on basically a shoestring budget. In short, José “Pepe” Bordalás’ Getafe side epitomises the term “overachievers” this season. With Real and Atletico dominating the Madrid football scene in the recent past, Getafe has firmly thrust itself into the conversation and is easily the second-best team in Madrid this season.
Discipline and determination are at the heart of Getafe’s exceptional results - the side has never wavered from the 4-4-2 formation this season, playing a direct, cut-throat style that is rooted in a strong defensive foundation. It all starts with an aggressive counter-press, allowing them to repeatedly attack with numbers hight up the pitch. The side is extremely adept at overloading the box, with willing midfield runners joining their forwards at every opportunity. This meshes extremely well with their tactic of pumping long passes up from defence, as it induces panic in opposition defences more often than not. Their other main source of goals is from set-pieces - only one team has scored more from dead balls this season, and that team usually has Lionel Messi standing over the ball. Getafe’s defenders use their size and physicality extremely well, frequently out-muscling the opposition during corners and free-kicks at both ends.
At the other end of the pitch, no side is better at transitioning from attack to defence in the league than Getafe. Their players have been instructed to do whatever it takes to disrupt opposition attacks, and the stats back them up - while Getafe leads the league in fouls committed and yellow cards received, they have also allowed the least shots on goal, easily ahead of second-place Real Madrid. It might not be the most aesthetically pleasing brand of football and might be termed as scrappy at times, but one cannot help but admire what Getafe has managed to achieve with limited resources.Published 16 Feb 2020, 15:56 IST