Sports Monks

La Liga Santander 2018-19 Season Round-Up

FC Barcelona became champions of La Liga by beating Levante by a goal to nil on April 28th. Although, for neutrals, it was more of the inevitable finally taking place, it didn’t make the moment any less joyful. Very fittingly, it was Lionel Messi who came up with the goal that clinched the title for the Catalan club.

In a brilliant campaign spearheaded by Messi, anchored by Pique and masterminded by Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona have the potential to reach the vastly coveted ‘treble’ – The La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. While the Spanish manager wasn’t initially a fan favourite for his reluctance to use Ousmane Dembele and for the lack optimism brought about by his summer signings (An ageing Arturo Vidal, a rather purposeless procuration of Kevin-Price Boateng, and a relatively unknown centre half in Clement Lenglet), Valverde proved that he was a shrewd buyer, and his under-the-radar signings look on course to replicate Luis Enrique’s managerial legacy.

It may initially seem very surprising that arch rivals Real Madrid are 15 points behind the title winners, but a closer look at the situation offers a good explanation. Firstly, the departure of star talisman Cristiano Ronaldo followed the resignation of 3-time Champions League winning manager Zinedine Zidane, the 2 most important men in the club after president Florentino Perez. When Julen Lopetegui was announced as the Zidane’s successor, opinion was divided. Lopetegui’s style was built on controlled possession, quick one and two touch passing, and gegenpressing; this was in stark contrast to Zidane’s direct approach and emphasis on crossing. Appointing a relatively inexperienced manager and failing to replace Ronaldo sowed the seeds for their worst season in 42 years.

Although Zidane did eventually return mid-season, it was too little, too late to salvage a doomed campaign.

Another talking point is the meteoric rise of Getafe, to 4th place (at the time of writing). For a club that only gained promotion 2 seasons ago, such a feat is nearly unthinkable. A lot of credit for this feat must go to top scorers Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina, and of course manager Pepe Bordalas. In addition, the defensive unit as a whole deserves plaudits, for without their contribution it would have been impossible to keep 12 clean sheets across the season (3rd highest in the league).

In a season where Atletico Madrid fended off interest of Europe’s top clubs for the likes of Antione Griezmann, Jan Oblak, Diego Godin et al, the overall aura around the club has diminished in recent times. Finishing 2nd in the league is no small feat, but snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the Champions League and subsequent losses have dampened the mood around the Wanda Metropolitano. They now face yet another summer trying to fend off vultures, with Rodi and Saul Niguez being prime targets for Manchester City, and Jan Oblak rumoured to be high on Manchester United’s wishlist.

Noteworthy statistics include:

Top Scorers:

  • Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 34 goals
  • Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) & Luis Suarez (Barcelona) – 21 goals
  • Cristhian Stuani (Girona) – 18 goals

Most Assists:

  • Lionel Messi (Barcelona) & Pablo Sarabia (Sevilla) – 13 assists
  • Santi Cazorla (Villarreal) – 10 assists
  • Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid) and Jony Rodriguez (Alaves) – 9 assists

Most Clean Sheets:

  • Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) – 20
  • Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona) – 16
  • David Soria (Getafe) – 12

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