The La Liga Clubs Who Could Challenge Stuttering Real Madrid & Barcelona – Ranked

Ballon d’Or winners Modric & Messi during El Clasico | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

These are, of course, very early days in the 2020/21 football season, and only so much can be taken from these initial skirmishes.

There’s the old saying that the league table never lies, but you would have to question that at this early juncture, given that the fixture list has looked kindly on some sides more than others.

Perhaps then we should only be concerning ourselves with the relative performances of teams around Europe, rather than results and league standings. And, on that note, these are perturbing times for supporters of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Both sides have man an indifferent start to the campaign, both domestically and on the continent in Real Madrid’s case. Performances have been meek, and questions are already being asked among supporters and behind closed doors – evidenced by Josep Maria Bartomeu’s resignation as Barcelona president on Tuesday.

In La Liga, the usual also-rans may be fancying their chances of mounting a serious challenge to Spain’s duopoly. So, If Barcelona and Real Madrid aren’t going to win the title, then who is?

Here are the La Liga sides who could dethrone the giants – ranked from least to most likely.

Yangel HerreraYangel Herrera
Granada CF in their win over Sevilla FC | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Granada are currently third in the league and just a point off the current pace (with a game in hand) having lost just one of their opening six games. That being said, the defeat did come in the form of a 6-1 drubbing away to Atletico Madrid.

The Andalusians certainly don’t see themselves as a club to make up the numbers and seem to be making something work on the field.

However, their best-ever finish in the top flight was sixth back in the 70s, but they did manage a surprise seventh place finish last term.

Jaime MataJaime Mata
Getafe CF in their win over FC Barcelona | Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Getafe’s in-your-face style hasn’t and won’t please everyone this season, but it’s getting results – albeit unlikely to be in the volume required to win a league title.

The Madrid-based club – who have already beaten Barcelona this season -have finished in the top half in all three seasons since their return from the second division in 2017, but still lack a squad with sufficient strength in depth.

Paco AlcacerPaco Alcacer
Alcacer has 6 goals in 8 games in all comps so far | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Villarreal’s defensive fragility perhaps precludes a title challenge, but after a fairly solid start, they’re already in the Champions League places and are only two points off pace setters Real Sociedad.

Unai Emery has already seen eight goals go in at either end so far this season, and will look to the talents of Paco Alcacer to add to his four goals to help sustain a positive goal difference this season.

FC Sevilla - Press Conference And Training SessionFC Sevilla - Press Conference And Training Session
Big club in Europe, but can they win the league? | Fran Santiago/Getty Images

With just a solitary La Liga title to their name back in 1946, Sevilla are a club who often excel in Europe but falter domestically.

Off the back of their sixth Europa League win in just 15 years, Sevilla have been tipped for good things in this year’s Spanish top flight.

Re-signing Ivan Rakitic from Barca to add to a squad already boasting the likes of Munir, Jesus Navas, Suso and Luuk de Jong gives them an extra weapon to mount an assault on top spot.

However, old habits die hard. They’ve already dropped more points than they’ve earned in La Liga, sitting one place below Barca and one place above Valencia in 13th.

Mikel OyarzabalMikel Oyarzabal
Real Sociedad v SD Huesca – La Liga Santander | Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Real Sociedad have set the early pace and the performances suggest they are good value for the lead. They’ve drawn with Real Madrid and beaten Getafe, so there are early signs of promise, and in Mikel Oyarzabal they possess one of the most impressive young talents in Spain.

After spells at Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund, Mikel Merino has finally found a home in San Sebastian and has been rewarded with a call-up to the Spanish national team.

The foundations are there for La Real, but whether they can sustain their form over a whole season remains to be seen.

Suarez has hit the ground running in Madrid | GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

Crowned Spanish champions for the tenth time back in 2013/14, Atletico Madrid have just moved up to fifth in the table, but the jam-packed nature of the current standings means they could go top if they win their game in hand, and you wonder how important the signing of Luis Suarez will be in the destination of the trophy.

The Uruguayan has already been among the goals for Diego Simeone’s side, and what he brings to Atleti he takes away from Barcelona – a proven goalscorer at this level.

Barca don’t have a proper world-class ‘number nine’ with Antoine Griezmann still struggling to find his feet in Catalonia, while Suarez’s reliability in front of goal takes some of the pressure off the young shoulders of Joao Felix.

Elsewhere, Cadiz, Osasuna and Elche also all have more wins than they have defeats so far this season. Previous champions of Spain Barca, Valencia and Sevilla cannot say the same.

Again, these are such early days of the season that it would be laughable to draw any significant conclusions. But these are worrying early signs for Spanish football’s Goliaths, and it cannot be denied: this is not the start they had in mind.