While all the attention is paid in La Liga to Barcelona and Real Madrid – and sometimes Atletico – there are three new teams with a story to tell
After La Liga’s kick-off, many were positive that the first few games would easily sink the newly promoted teams into the depths of the standings, a default spot for an up and coming side with high hopes of performing well in football’s elite but with shortcomings both in quality and budget.
However, the first three games have provided plenty of surprises for LaLiga fans in this sense, as Levante, Girona and Getafe have managed to pick up points and unexpectedly win games that have placed them in the middle of the table: Levante remains unbeaten and has amassed five points, while both the Catalan and Madrid-based teams stand, with four points, in 10th and 11th spots.
Levante: A bomb-proof defense and quality drops on front
Possibly the most surprising newcomer is, at the same time, the one who dominated the most last season in Segunda División. Levante strolled through the competition with supreme confidence and power, seizing the championship with authority and won promotion almost two months before the league had ended.
Their summer has been quite busy, signing plenty of players and changing the team’s profile into a more ball-friendly side. Last year, their amazing defense sustained them throughout the second tier and the sheer quality of players such as Roger Martí (best Segunda striker last season with 22 goals), captain Jose Luis Morales or playmaker José Campaña was enough to beat opponents into submission regularly.
Roger got a nasty knee injury this summer which KO-ed him till January 2018, so Levante has had to increase their firepower in order to compensate for his loss. Interesting forwards such as Emmanuelle Boateng or Alex Alegría will have to up their performance this season. The team’s lack of goals to date has been balanced by Iván ‘Ivi’ Lopez’s rousing performances against Deportivo and Real Madrid, scoring twice and showing that he can be a starter even if he was playing in Sevilla’s youth team until a few months ago.
Girona: Manchester City scent for a young and ambitious team
Obviously, Manchester City’s involvement in Girona has been the biggest news of the summer for a club that earned fully their promotion last year with a wonderful season. Former Atlético player Delfí Geli is the club’s president, while Pere Guardiola (FIFA agent and Pep’s brother) has been heavily involved in the talks and owns the business who bought 44% of the club (another 44% is in hands of Man City).
Being backed-up by a Premier League giant comes with many perks, including a battery of loans and interesting players landing in the tiny side this summer: Pablo Maffeo, Chidiebere Nwakali, Rubén Sobrino, Florian Lejeune… Most of them play as midfielders and attackers, and City believes their growth in a modest La Liga side can provide them with plenty of opportunities to keep improving and return to England with more experience.
Pablo Machín, the manager who was able to promote Girona to La Liga for the first time in their history, had his contract extended and has built up a very reliable squad, consistent even in his line-ups (he has used the same XI starters for all three games) and surprising a weak Atlético on their home debut, even if the Colchoneros managed to overcome the disadvantage and earn a draw (2-2). A week later, history was made with Girona’s first win ever in La Liga against Málaga (1-0) and, after the international break, they fought hard but eventually lost to Athletic Club in San Mamés (2-0).
Getafe: defending as if their lives were on the line
Getafe was late to the party last summer, securing the hot third ticket for La Liga after a long 48-game season in a drama-filled playoff against Tenerife. But they succeeded and bounced back to the elite after only one year navigating the depths of Segunda. It was unexpected, but no one can say it was unfair.
Their Board kept things simple: they retained their manager (Quique Bordalás) and built a squad from scratch full of experienced players, while keeping their backbone intact. For example, former Valencia keeper Vicente Guaita has become quite the leader in his position, and has already managed to make a penalty save in the first couple of games.
Bordalás has built and further strengthened a team which defends as a single unit, managing to allow only two goals in the first three matches and, for example, being able to win their local derby against Leganés last week (1-2). Earlier they had lost against Sevilla (0-1) and secured a draw in their debut home against Athletic (0-0).
Allowing few goals, amassing clean sheets and trusting their strikers (Ángel Rodríguez, Jorge Molina, youngster Dani Pacheco, Segunda División sensation ‘Chuli’ Vázquez…) to be accurate at some point will be their three main selling points this season if they want to keep playing amongst the best.