Five things we’ve learned from the 2022/23 LaLiga Santander season so far

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona ensure it’ll be a thrilling title race

We may only be less than halfway through the season but Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are already in the middle of a gruelling and thrilling title race.

Champions Real Madrid picked up where they left off at the end of the last campaign, winning 10 of their first 11 matches, including beating FC Barcelona in ElClásico. But Barça, who had made a flying start of their own, responded to defeat at the Santiago Bernabéu in the best way possible, winning their next five games to move top of the table by two points.

FC Barcelona, who have not won the LaLiga Santander title since 2019, have been particularly strong in defence, keeping a staggering 11 clean sheets in their first 14 games while dropping only four points. Star signing Robert Lewandowski has also made a real difference by scoring 13 goals.

But Los Merengues have shown real strength in depth, with Fede Valverde and Rodrygo stepping up in the absence of Karim Benzema, who has only played half the matches due to injuries. This title race really should go down to the wire.

The Basque giants enjoy a return to the halcyon days

Right below the top two, another familiar rivalry is brewing, with Real Sociedad sitting third and local rivals Athletic Club fourth.

Invigorated by the return of Ernesto Valverde, Athletic Club made their best start to a campaign since the 2013/14 season, back during El Txingurri’s second spell in the San Mames dugout. Their superb form has been fuelled by the heart-warming story of brothers Iñaki and Nico Williams, who have scored eight goals and provided four assists between them.

Their Basque neighbours Real Sociedad are having an even better season and went off for the break two points above them. Imanol Alguacil has just renewed his contract until 2025 and his side are renowned for their stylish play, but lately they have also shown remarkable resilience. Their performance this season is even more impressive considering usual talisman Mikel Oyarzabal is still out with a knee injury, while blockbuster summer signing Umar Sadiq also picked up a long-term knee injury in only his second match.

These two Basque sides dominated Spanish football in the early 1980s, winning two LaLiga Santander titles each, and right now both sides are enjoying one of their best seasons since those heady days. All eyes are already on the weekend of January 14th 2023, when we’ll have the first Basque derby.

Patience is required at Sevilla FC

This time last year, Sevilla FC were in the middle of a title race. Twelve months on, they sit in the relegation zone having taken two points in their last five matches.

Parting ways with Julen Lopetegui and turning to former manager Jorge Sampaoli has not helped them turn a corner just yet and their final match before the break summed up their frustrating campaign, as they saw two players sent off in a 2-1 loss at home to Real Sociedad.

However, there have been some encouraging signs, such as the emergence of Serbian international Nemanja Gudelj as a scorer of great goals, or the flair shown on occasion by summer signing Isco. With a little more time, there is confidence that Sampaoli will be able to push Sevilla FC back up the table.

Iraola takes Rayo Vallecano to new heights

After making a hugely impressive return to LaLiga Santander last year, Rayo Vallecano have gone from strength to strength, rising to eighth in the standings while taking some remarkable scalps. They have earned away draws against FC Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid and pulled off memorable victories over Valencia CF and Sevilla FC and, most spectacularly, coming from behind to beat Real Madrid 3-2 in what was the reigning champions only league defeat so far this campaign.

Coach Andoni Iraola, who oversaw their return to the top flight in 2021, has done an outstanding job and the key to his team’s success has been their adaptability. They have produced scintillating attacking displays, such as their 5-1 win over Cádiz CF, but are equally happy to put in disciplined and combative performances against the top sides.

It’s a truly competitive league

Sevilla FC’s struggles and Rayo Vallecano’s rise have underlined one thing that LaLiga Santander fans have known for some time: Spain’s top flight is the most competitive in Europe.

LaLiga Santander has been getting ever tighter since the launch of its economic controls in 2013 and the balance has been particularly pronounced this season. After 14 matches, the 12 teams from eighth all the way down to 19th are separated by just 11 points in the table, which guarantees excitement in all key areas of the standings, from the battle to avoid relegation to the fight for European football to the race for the title, where that gap between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is just two points.

MG Team

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