Mon, 19 Oct, 2015, 09:12
FC Barcelona's five goals and win against Rayo Vallecano took them joint top of La Liga, where they are joined by Real Madrid and Celta Vigo, who grabbed a late win over Villarreal on Sunday courtesy of a Nolito goal.
It's tighter than ever after a start to the new season full of surprises and disappointments. Teams like Sevilla and Valencia have not started as they finished last season, but teams like Celta and Villarreal have impressed.
The key: Madrid and Barça have dropped a lot of points. The Catalan side have lost two games, against Celta and Sevilla, and have problems in defence and with injuries. Iniesta, Rafinha and Messi's knocks have obliged Luis Enrique to return Mascherano to midfield and Barça have conceded 11 goals in eight league games.
As for Madrid, their problem has been differenct. With Keylor Navas in exceptional form, the criticism focuses further up the pitch. Keeping in mind that Benitez has some important players missing, Los Blancos have drawn three games, dropping six points. It's left them unable to pull clear in the league.
Villarreal, Celta vs. Valencia, Sevilla
Both Villarreal and Celta, two teams with well designed squads for the way the play, have surprised with some impressive wins. Villarreal lost their first game last time out against Levante, although that was followed up with another defeat to Celta this weekend. Talking of Celta, they thumped Barcelona 4-1.
On the other side of the coin, Valencia and Sevilla have not been in great form. Los Che have lost twice and drawn three more, leaving them with 12 points. Sevilla showed signs of life with wins against Rayo Vallecano and Barça, but dipped again on Saturday, drawing with Eibar. They have nine points.
The tightest league in 10 years
La Liga has not been so even for a while. The leader at this stage of the season has not has as few points (18) for several year. Last season, at this point, Barça already had 22 points, level with Sevilla, while Madrid had 21.
In 2013-14, Barça and Atletico Madrid were tied with 24 points, while Los Blancos had 19. In 2012-13, it was Barça and Atletico tied again, this time with 22, followed by Malaga with 17. And in 2011-12, Barça (20) and Madrid (19) were followed by an immense Levante (18).
You have to go back to the 2005-06 season for the last time a side topped the league with less than 18 points after eight matches. That year, the top was: Getafe 17; Celta 16; Madrid 15; Valencia 15. Barça had just 13 points.
Despite the budget differences between the league's top two and the rest, this season the gap seems to have closed. La Liga is more open than ever and it could continue this way for many more weeks. Next up at the top, Real Madrid travel to Vigo next weekend.