Spain’s Liga Santander has reached the halfway point of the season with Barcelona and Real Madrid tied at the top of the table with a five-point cushion over Atletico Madrid and Sevilla. Here are some things we’ve learned at the midway point of the 2019/2020 season.
1 Real Madrid’s defense doing its job
Despite winning 3-0 away to Getafe on Saturday, it wasn’t a vintage attacking display from Real Madrid with their first two goals coming from headers from central defender Raphael Varane and the final goal coming deep into injury time.
However, the fact that Zinedine Zidane’s men didn’t concede a goal made their task a lot easier with their defense playing a key role; goalkeeper Thibault Courtois made three crucial saves. Eder Militao deputized for the suspended Sergio Ramos while left back Ferland Mendy has become a more trustworthy option than Marcelo.
Real Madrid have conceded just 12 league goals this season and, rather than their traditional attacking flair, that has been the secret of their success.
2 Abelardo gives Espanyol hope
Abelardo Fernandez took over at Espanyol at the end of last year with the club rock bottom of the table and looking doomed to relegation after some weak and lackluster displays. They start the second half of the campaign still in last place, but with renewed hopes after taking a 2-2 draw from Barcelona.
Espanyol always up their game against their local rivals, but Saturday saw more aggression in 90 minutes than in the previous 18 games as they looked to frustrate and force errors from Barca and they got their reward when Wu Lei scored an excellent late equalizer.
There is a long way to go, but if Espanyol can repeat that commitment they have a fighting chance of survival.
3 Question marks still hang over Barca
The other side of the coin to Espanyol’s improvement was seeing Barca drop two more points in their bid to retain the title.
Coach Ernesto Valverde fielded what many would consider to be his strongest side with Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong in midfield and Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann in attack.
However, Griezmann again struggled to get into the game despite his workrate, while De Jong was forced into two errors which saw him sent off in the 75th minute allowing Espanyol to get back into the game. Once again Arturo Vidal’s energy in the second half was vital for Barca, but Valverde will be unhappy with the way his side were once again below par away from home.
4 Battle for Europe looms large
While Barca and Real Madrid look destined to battle it out for the title and Atletico Madrid likely to at least assure a top-four finish, the battle for the remaining Champions League place and the Europa League spots promises to be fascinating.
Sevilla look solid in fourth while Real Sociedad have played some lovely football at times but can be undone by moments of inconsistency.
Valencia have the squad and the experience to challenge. Getafe are usually tough to beat and Athletic Club Bilbao have built their campaign on a rock solid defense.
There are plenty of different styles of football among these teams and much could depend on how each team’s fitness levels cope with the rigors of the schedule over the next five months. Enditem