LA LIGA

La Liga now a table for three

Coaches lament “boring” two-club league but Atlético's claim bolstered in 7-0 win

Diego Costa goes in for a header against Getafe.
Diego Costa goes in for a header against Getafe.Andres Kudacki / AP

Both Diego Simeone and Luis García Plaza shared a sensation after Saturday's late kick-off between Atlético Madrid and Getafe at the Calderón. "The league is boring." Be that as it may, it is certainly anything but boring for supporters of the top three sides in the standings. But for the remaining 17, being on the receiving end of a hiding every time Simeone's side, Real Madrid or Barcelona hove into view is probably getting a tad tiresome.

Atlético inflicted the worst defeat in Getafe's history - 7-0 - in the highest-scoring victory at the Calderón for 25 years. Boring for García Plaza perhaps, but for the ever-cautious Simeone? "I'm still convinced the league is boring. There isn't much chance [of winning the title] if you're not Real or Barça. The past 10 years show that. Today the reality is that Getafe went down to 10 men early and we were able to take advantage of that. That doesn't mean we think we're better than we are."

Whatever the Argentinean manager says in public, even he must be wondering if that is really the case in La Liga this season. Building on last term — when Atlético was in second for much of the season but fell away at the business end — was always going to difficult. But 12 wins from 14 league games and qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League with four victories in four matches, suggests that if Atlético can remain injury free, there is no reason it cannot at least have a say in the top two positions come May. As García Plaza noted: "The league is very boring; 4-0 to Barça, a 5-0 for Madrid and 7-0 here. There is a big gap between these three and the rest. I've heard many managers say the same thing as me: either the rest of us are very bad teams, or Atlético Madrid is a very good team."

Simeone's point was proven to an extent as both Real and Barcelona also cruised to imperious victories without many key players. Gerardo Martino's side, shorn of captains Víctor Valdés and Xavi, superstar goalscorer Lionel Messi and its first choice full-backs, nonetheless beat Granada 4-0 without ever slipping out of first gear.

Either the rest of us are very bad teams, or Atlético Madrid is a very good team"

Real, meanwhile, started strongly against Almería — Cristiano Ronaldo scoring inside two minutes — wobbled slightly as the home side hit a makeshift defense on the break several times but still knocked in five without reply despite the talismanic Portugal captain limping off on 50 minutes.

The difference between Spain and the rest of Europe's top leagues is not the identity of the eventual champion: in Germany either Dortmund or Bayern will lift the title. In England, Manchester United and Chelsea have won eight of the past 10 domestic championships. Serie A is quite open this season but Juventus, champion for the past two years, tops the standing.

The difference is that the gulf in resources in other leagues is not so great that the smaller teams are essentially denied a day in the sun at some point. In the Premier League, the top three have lost six games between them. Only one defeat has been inflicted on Barça, Real and Atlético by any side other than these three.

Whether or not this constitutes a boring league is open to question, but witnesses of Real Sociedad's epic 4-3 over Celta would beg to differ. Carlos Vela scored four for the Basque side as it clawed its way back from 3-1 down, the Mexican netting a 20-minute second-half hat-trick to secure three points. Throw in a wonderful brace from Rafinha, on loan at Celta from Barcelona, a disallowed goal that would have taken Vela's tally to five, a red card and plenty of controversy and it was hardly a match that supported the idea of La Liga being a dull affair. Neither side will win the title of course, but neither side's fans will care when games like this are on the menu. The title might be a more-or-less foregone conclusion, but there will be plenty yet for the division's other teams to feast on between now and May.

Other results: Valladolid 0-1 Osasuna; Levante 0-3 Villarreal; Rayo 1-4 Espanyol; Elche 2-1; Sevilla 4-0 Betis.

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