Forget Barcelona or Madrid, Valencia and Seville are cities that have a right to be eagerly watched in this exciting La Liga season. Levante and Valencia CF from Valencia and Betis and Sevilla from Seville have had good starts to the 2012 campaign and are all sitting within the top ten of La Primera Division. With Champion’s League spots up for grabs and much more, the battle between these two great cities could be very intriguing .
Let’s begin with Valencia who possibly have loftier ambitions than their current 8th place position suggests following three consecutive third place finishes under the now departed, Unai Emery. This season sees Los Che welcome new coach Maurico Pellegrino and it’s fair to say that the transition following his arrival has been difficult and with Atletico in the form they are in, a fourth consecutive third place finish could be out of reach.
Things have also been exacerbated somewhat through the absence of key players such as midfield maestro Ever Banega who hasn’t quite returned to action following the freak injury he suffered while getting ran over by his own car.
Last weekend’s 2-0 win over Atletico could be seen as a turning point however after Roberto Soldado scored a cracking opener reminding us all of his prowess in front of goal. Team-mate Nelson Valdez secured the win with a neat finish and it’s fair to say the Paraguayan has looked like a decent loan signing by Pellegrino as he also scored the winner in another vital 3-2 home win over Athletic.
Perhaps the most concerning thing about Valencia is their away form as only one point out a possible 15 hasn’t made for good reading. Surprisingly their only point came at Real Madrid where they were unlucky not to take all three as Soldado unfortunately had a goal ruled out.
Levante had their best ever season in La Liga last year, as Arouna Kone fronted a side that finished sixth thus qualifying for the Europa League. However, Arouna Kone soon after permanently signing for Levante was again off to pastures new in the form of lowly Wigan in the EPL. This required renowned journeyman Obafemi Martins to step up to the plate and become Levante’s main spearhead in attack when he joined in September 2012. With four goals in five appearances for the Nigerian, it’s fair to say the Levante faithful certainly won’t be complaining.
Like Valencia, home form is key for Levante after winning all but one of their five home games so far. November could prove to be a difficult month for Levante with both Real and Barca coming up but a 0-0 draw at Sevilla can’t have been a bad start to the month.
Forget second season syndrome, Real Betis are thriving in their second season following promotion from the Segunda division in 2011. Currently sitting 4th and perhaps punching above their weight, Real Betis have made an impressive start to 2012-13.
However they are yet to play Barca or Real which could be a factor in their bright start but a 1-0 win over Valencia is certainly worth noting. Like all clubs gunning for high ambitions, a goalscorer has to be in place and Betis have that in Ruben Castro.
The 31 year old finished last year on 16 goals and this season he’s again started well with four goals, including a goal in the 1-0 win at Valladolid. While Castro has been impressive, equally as impressive has been Benat, the former Bilbao youth player has certainly made his impact on 2012, earning three caps for the national team.
Sevilla are a side that have failed to excel since the Juande Ramos ‘glory days’ of the mid 00s when they won the Uefa Cup twice and qualified for the Champions League. Those days are seemingly long gone, as they failed to qualify for a European competition for the first time since 2004 last season after finishing 9th. This season however, could deliver something good for Sevilla with Michel in charge for his first full season.
They remained unbeaten until Barcelona came to town in late September, although since then they’ve remained unbeaten at the Pizjuan. Like the others, away form could dent them after only picking up maximum points on the road once in a 2-0 win at Deportivo, proving the importance of their home form. Alvaro Negredo was criticised in the Euros for his cameo appearance but with six goals so far in La Liga he’s still well loved by the Sevilla fans and possibly feared by opposition goalkeepers.