La Liga 2011: 5 Teams That Will Affect 2011-2012 Title Race

Jonathan MaldonadoContributor IIISeptember 28, 2011

La Liga 2011: 5 Teams That Will Affect 2011-2012 Title Race

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    Barcelona is the defending three-peat champions of Spain's La Liga. As their quest for number four continues, several teams are surprising the Liga and may significantly alter the title race.

    Neither Barcelona or Real Madrid currently sit at the top of standings and have displayed holes in their defense. Although both teams have put on stellar blowouts of opponents, concerns are rising and teams are looking to capitalize on their weaknesses.

    Barcelona or Real Madrid are still favorites to win it all and will most probably hoist the trophy at season's end.

    The road there will be rough with the other contenders in the way.

5. Real Betis

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    Recently promoted Real Betis is the lone leader in La liga standings above second place Barcelona.

    That is sure to change soon, but through five games, there is a lot to say about this situation.

    Betis is 4-1 but is yet to play against any real contenders for the title. What's important about Betis being in first place right now is Barcelona and Real Madrid are beginning the season gaining ground instead of creating it. 

    Betis shouldn't be a problem head-to-head for either of the top two Liga squads. However, they may be able to remain close in points in the otherwise relatively weak field in La Liga should they continue playing well.

4. Levante

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    Levante hasn't lost a game so far this season and can boast a defeat of Real Madrid in the third week of play.

    There are some questionable draws so far in the season, but beating Madrid is a big game changer. The defeat proves that Madrid is very capable of giving one away and without scoring. The no goal defeat is also harder given Barcelona's 8-0 thrashing of Osasuna in the same week.

    With the defense being an issue in Barcelona, it is very possible Levante can sneak another big win against La Blaugrana.

3. Atletico Madrid

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    Pep Guardiola believes Atletico Madrid will be a contender for the Liga's trophy, even without Diego Forlan.

    The capital squad has routinely been one of the better contenders in La Liga and certainly has the ability to steal one from Barcelona or Real Madrid. They have already lost 5-0 to Barcelona, but have scored nine goals through their other four games.

    Should Atletico continue to rack up goals the way they have been against the rest of La Liga, expect them to be close in the standings.

2. Sevilla

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    Sevilla has kept pace with the rest of La Liga's contenders by remaining unbeaten and winning against teams like Valencia, Malaga and drawing with Villarreal.

    The squad has been one of La Liga's better teams other than Barcelona or Real Madrid and certainly has the players to trip up the lacking defenses of either squad.

1. Valencia

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    Valencia's first matchup with Barcelona alone is enough to prove that this squad will be the No. 1 headache for both Barcelona and Real Madrid.

    Barcelona was forced to work hard to come back and just draw against Los Che.

    Valencia isn't currently racking up the goals to keep pace in the goal differential column, but head-to-head matchups will prove to be a problem for both of La Liga's top favorites.