We need to go back to the times when Deportivo de la Coruna was Superdépor. When the Galician team, today in the Second Division, struggled to be a league champion and played regularly in Europe. It is necessary to look until the 2001/2002 season to see a leader of the First Division with fewer points than those currently Barça. After years in which the championships were counted by a record of points or goals scored, almost always with Barça and Real Madrid as protagonists, this football course is highlighting just the opposite. The big ones are less big, the media are staying and the little ones grow to reach the first third of the season with options to dream in Europe or, even, in a title that until recently seemed completely impossible.
Certainly, only 12 of the 38 League days have been disputed and the forecast is that the teams with the most budget, Barça, Madrid and Atlético de Madrid, will take a step forward in the next days to finish aspiring among the three in the title. In the first place, due to the superiority of their squad, and also because they have more depth than their rivals and they can – in theory – come in more good conditions to the final and decisive section of the competition. Now, this start has allowed to shake one status quo that seemed unquestionable. As a result of a brief comparison, Barça has 24 points, having won only seven games, tied three and lost two. Last season, the azulgranas had added 34, ten more: with eleven victories and only yielding a tie.
"We lost points against teams that we did not expect," commented Gerard Piqué after the stint against Betis. The third captain of Barça did not know why the team was strong and almost unbeatable against the big ones (in the Champions League, in addition to Real Madrid or Sevilla), but it offered a B face, much softer and vulnerable against the middle and lower classes of the regular Spanish competition (Leganés, Real Sociedad, Rayo Vallecano, Athletic Club and Girona, to give some examples).
Barça, even though he is still a leader. And Real Madrid, who has already changed coach midweek, after President Florentino Perez did not find Julen Lopetegui the results expected. With Santiago Solari as a coach, he took the team on an interim basis until yesterday was confirmed as the coach until the end of the season, the whites have redirected the course a bit, with three consecutive victories – two in the League and one in the Champions League. That yes, they will have to paddle still to wipe the difference of points with the Barça. For now, his balance is six wins, two draws and four defeats.
That Barça and Madrid have been irregular, and also had a doubtful start Atlético de Madrid (23 points, six wins, five draws and a defeat), has allowed some clubs to have been cast in the top of the classification. What in the first days seemed an anecdotal event, after disputing the 30% of the tournament begins to sound threatening. Maybe not for the title but to occupy European places that seemed reserved for other clubs (Valencia and Villarreal, for example), who now struggle to not lose the category.
Abelardo's Aliens occupy the Champions zone at one point of the leader and Espanyol de Rubi is fifth, two points in fourth place. Valladolid, Levante and Girona, with 17 points, are also at the top of a classification in which Celta, Valencia, Villarreal and Athletic Club occupy the 14th to 17th position. The world upside down.
The prudence of the little ones
"It's great to be at the top of everything. Generates great satisfaction. But we must remember that it is very difficult and that our goal remains permanence, "Abelardo said this weekend after the victory of the Alaveses, at home, against Huesca. It is the same speech that on the fifth day, when they defeated, also at home, Real Madrid. Nowadays the days go by and the objective remains humble in relation to the performance of the squad, in the competition. To the other teams that are at the top by surprise, the speeches are more or less similar.
But it is obvious that if the numbers of the little ones shine is because the grown-ups do not do the job well. Barça have begun a self-criticism process after completing a disappointing season start in the League. To the team of Ernesto Valverde, champion of seven of the last ten leagues, 12 points have already escaped: in three draws and in two defeats. And of these, more than half (7) flew to the Camp Nou, in the draws against Girona and Athletic Club, and Sunday's defeat against Betis. We need to shoot more than a decade ago, until the 2003/2004 season, the first of Frank Rijkaard on the bench, to find a worse start.
Compared to last year, the team is ten points below: at this time of the season, he had won all the league matches except one, who had tied him to the Atlético de Madrid field.
At Barça, however, the diagnosis is relatively easy: defense. The team maintains the streak of goals in favor, with 34 – one more than last year – but sees how 18 goals in Liga have been added when last season, in the 12th, he had only received 4. A record four and a half times worse.
Waiting for the big ones to redirect the course, the little ones begin to dream, although prudently they prefer to keep their mouths closed. The League, at least this season, is once again like before.