Terrassa (Barcelona), October 1: Top three Spanish clubs – Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid – have endured a poor start to the new La Liga season while not losing any ground in the title stakes.
Ernesto Valverde’s side has been helped by a tottering Real Madrid who failed to win for the third time in four league outings, after playing out a goalless draw with Atletico Madrid.
"Leaders, despite everything,” said the front page of the Barcelona-based newspaper Sport.
Real have the same number of points as they did after seven games last season but they were seven points adrift of Barca at this stage of the last campaign. Now Real (+6) and Barca are locked on 14 points with the Catalans at the summit.
No team has led the La Liga standings with such low points after seven games since the 1993-94 season.
Real and Barca’s twin struggles contrast with their ruthless form of a few years ago, with the former sweeping to the 2011-12 title with 100 points and the Catalans racking up a century of points the following season.
Atletico, the only serious challenger to the duopoly of Real and Barca in the last 14 years and who won the title in 2014, have made their worst ever start to a season under coach Diego Simeone, taking 12 points from seven games. They remain, however, only two points behind their usual rivals, sitting fourth.
Sevilla have benefited the most from the stumbling form of the three giants and are currently third after winning three games on the trot, including thrashing Real 3-0 last Wednesday.
Real coach Julen Lopetegui remained calm despite his side’s worrying form in front of goal, scoring only twice in four games.
“The season is going to be very tough and very long,” said Lopetegui after the 0-0 draw with Atletico to Daily Marca.
“We don’t focus on our rivals, we focus on ourselves. We’re only seven games into the season and everything is to play for. I’m happy because the team showed pride, personality and played good football.”
Barca defender Jordi Alba, meanwhile, was fiercely critical of his side after they took two points from a possible nine.
"That’s three games where we haven’t won. It’s clear that we need to change things to start winning again," he said.
"We’re not relaxed at all, we have to look at many aspects of our game. But this has only just begun, despite not winning we're still at the top of the table and that means the League is very equal.
"Teams that you would think cannot beat you are doing so. We have to change a lot of things, and each of us has to give 100 per cent.”
(The writer is a freelancer who based in Terrassa, a province in Barcelona)