It looks as though a whole host of Spanish clubs have taken inspiration from Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League triumph last campaign. And now that we’re six games into the new La Liga season, we thought we’d assess the chances of three of the division’s early high-fliers, starting with last year’s Europa League winners…
Unai Emery’s departure for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer led many to fear what the future held for Sevilla. But in new boss Jorge Sampaoli, they have a manager with an impressive CV, most notably a Copa America win with Chile back in 2015.
And he’s got off to a fine start in all competitions, losing just one of eight games since the season started.
His activity in the summer transfer window has given the Europa League champions a fresh look going forward, with the arrivals of Samir Nasri, Wissam Ben Yedder, Pablo Sarabia and Luciano Vietto scoring eight goals between them already.
While they’re yet to face Reald Madrid, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona this season, they have come up against another of Euope’s elite sides in Juventus, holding the Italian giants to a 0-0 draw away from home.
Up next for Sampaoli’s men are two fixtures against recently promoted sides in Alaves and Leganes. Win those and they could close the three-point gap between themselves and the league leaders.
Though they haven’t finished higher than fifth since the 2009-10 campaign, there’s no reason to suggest why Sevilla can’t challenge the big three this time out.
Athletic Bilbao (150/1)
It’s now four league wins on the bounce for Los Leones, after a poor start saw them lose their first two games of the season.
Ernesto Valverde only added one name to his roster this summer, so it’s clear the Spanish boss has faith in the players at his disposal.
And such faith is being repaid in spades by his side, who will be looking to improve on last season’s fifth-place finish and close the gap between themselves and the big boys in La Liga.
Veteran striker Aduriz has been in fine form so far this campaign for Bilbao, bagging three goals in six league games, and keeping the 35-year-old Spain international fit could be pivotal for Valverde’s chances of achieving the unthinkable this year.
Fran Escriba’s men are one of just three sides yet to taste defeat in La Liga this season, having already held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu last week.
And it’s results like that which will give fans confidence that their side can improve on last season’s fourth-place finish.
Granted, they were a staggering 27 points off last season’s champions Barcelona, but things have changed at Estadio El Madrigal, with Escriba overseeing the departure of eight players and the arrival of nine.
One of those arrivals is Nicola Sansone, who has impressed since joining from Serie A outfit Sassuolo. The 25-year-old striker already has four goals to his name in six La Liga appearances and it’s likely any domestic success will depend on whether or not he can maintain that kind of form.
You’d have to go back to the 2003-04 campaign to find the last time any side other than Real, Atletico or Barcelona won the league. But with all three sides already dropping a handful of points this term, could we be seeing a different name on the title?
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