La Liga Winners and Loser at This Point in the Season

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2013

La Liga Winners and Loser at This Point in the Season

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    With a little more than half of the La Liga season completed, fans and coaches alike are judging the performances thus far.

    For some, the season has been more than hoped for, but for others it may already be seen as a failed attempt to improve upon last year.

    This season alone has proven that the Barcelona and Real Madrid duopoly can be broken up. But even more important is that teams do stand a fighting chance against the giants of Spain.

    In this article we will take a look at the winners and losers midway through the season.

    The results will be based on each club’s position in the table with last season’s performance as a gauging tool.

    Big wins and disappointing loses will also play a part in our list.

    With that being said, continue reading to find out if your club is a winner or loser in La Liga this season.

Winners: Real Betis

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    The season has definitely been kind to Real Betis. Only one year after promotion to the Primera, the Seville club has a chance to qualify for the Champions League.

    With such talents as Benat and Salvo Sevilla, Real Betis looks primed for a run at the top four.

    After finishing their promotion season at 13th in the table, most expected a mid-table spot for the club. But Betis has blown all expectations out of the water. After beating Real Madrid 1-0 and testing Barcelona in December, the jury is out.

    This Real Betis outfit is showing that the correct system and passion for the game can bring extraordinary results. The Seville club does not have money to spend, but they are finding ways to win.

    At this point in the season, Real Betis is absolutely a winner. When a mid-table finish looked like a great goal, Pepe Mel pushed his team to fourth in the table.

    It will be exciting to see if Real Betis can continue this incredible growth. With clubs rumored to be interested in stars such as Benat, the next few months will be huge for Los Beticos.

Losers: Athletic Bilbao

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    Entering this season, Athletic Bilbao was certainly a team up in the air.

    Though Bilbao finished at the middle of the table last season, they had also competed in two cup finals—the Copa del Rey and Europa League. The squad looked sharp and things were promising for Bielsa’s team.

    During the summer, Bilbao sold their most prolific player, Javi Martinez, for a great price to Bayern Munich (via Goal). But with this being only one significant blow for Los Leones, the current campaign looked like a sure top six finish.

    But things could not have been more disappointing for Bilbao.

    The biggest player for Athletic Bilbao in recent years, Fernando Llorente, stated that he was going to leave the club. With this news, Los Leones were starved of stars and looking to unproven players to carry the club.

    While such performers as Aritz Aduriz were in stunning form, it is the established players of Bilbao that have caused the most issues.

    Rising talent Iker Muniain has yet to find his form of the past season, while established stars are underperforming.

    The Bilbao defense, once a powerful unit, has leaked 39 goals already which is one of the current worst in La Liga. It is clear that Bilbao has a problem.

    Now sitting in 14th place, Athletic Bilbao are failing. This is a club that was supposed to press for a Champions League spot, but will instead miss out on any chance in Europe.

Winners: Rayo Vallecano

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    For Rayo Vallecano, the new season brought hope. Certainly, anything done this year would be an improvement on the previous campaign.

    Little did anyone know that the lowly club from Madrid would be challenging for a spot in European competition.

    Last season, Los Vallecanos finished 18th in the table with merely two points separating them from the relegation zone. It would have seemed natural for Rayo to face a relegation battle all year long.

    In the wake of a struggling season ahead, manager Paco Jemez has done an extraordinary job in getting the best out of his previously underachieving squad.

    The likes of Leo Baptistao and Jordi Amat have become leaders in the increasingly impressive Rayo lineup, and improvement looks likely.

    But at this stage in the season, Rayo Vallecano deserves much praise. The season was supposed to be one of fighting relegation, but instead it has become one of fighting for Europe.

    Rayo will be yet another rising club that will have to guard its talented stars. The club insists that they have not received offers for Baptistao, but that does not mean that the offers won’t come (via Skysports).

    Yet for now, Rayo should celebrate their successful run in the current campaign. For the sake of La Liga, let us all hope the amazing form continues.

Losers: Osasuna

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    Not much can be said about Osasuna, they may easily be the most disappointing club of the current campaign.

    After finishing last season in 7th place in the table, fans expected a run at the European zone during this campaign. However, not only is that not happening, Osasuna will unlikely remain in the Primera at all.

    The Pamplona-based club does boast a terrific defense that has only allowed 20 goals on the year, but the offense has struggled to only score 14 total goals.

    Simply put, Osasuna is just not at the same level of the rest of the La Liga competition.

    Osasuna has only won three games in the entire season while picking up 10 loses. With form continuing to be low, the side from Pamplona stands little chance of getting out of the relegation zone.

    The story of Osasuna is certainly a sad one. The club has fallen from grace, and it could be a long time before Los Rojillos return to the Primera.

    As of now, any comeback for Osasuna would be too little and too late.

Winners: FC Barcelona

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    When discussing the winners of La Liga thus far, it is impossible to leave out the club that is still undefeated.

    Barcelona broke, and continues to set, the record for best start to a La Liga season and are the first club to ever make it to the halfway point without a loss (via ESPN).

    Clearly La Blaugrana has everything in their favor. A world-class squad, rising youth, and a new manager who is quickly proving he is more than capable of leading this team.

    But one of the biggest reasons for Barcelona being winners is the insurmountable lead they hold over Atletico Madrid, and more importantly, their bitter rivals Real Madrid.

    Last season was not a successful one for Barcelona. The league was lost to Real Madrid, they did not even make it to the Champions League final, and the Copa del Rey was the only real trophy won.

    So to already be in a position to win the league very early, makes Barcelona a winner. The club has rebounded from a subpar season by their standards and a treble could even be on the horizon.

Biggest Losers: Real Madrid

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    What more can be said about the current state of Real Madrid? After taking back the La Liga crown from Barcelona last year, Los Blancos have become a shell of their former self.

    There are clearly many reasons for Real Madrid to be listed as the biggest loser at this point in the season.

    The capital-based club is 18 points behind Barcelona in the table, which in itself is reason enough for the season to be a failure. However, it is how the club has gotten to this point that sees their season in a constant downfall.

    Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has brought drama to the Santiago Bernabeu. After a fallout with both Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, things began to look bleak (via Mirror).

    Yet the recent benching of Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas has been cause for uproar from Madridistas (via Marca). Real Madrid has not merely been losing, they have been falling apart.

    The attack is not what it was last season, and the defense continues to concede easy goals. Real Madrid may even be in trouble of finishing outside of the top two spots.

    It is more than just the results; it is how the results are taking place that sees Real Madrid as the biggest loser midway through the La Liga season.

Biggest Winners: Atletico Madrid

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    Atletico Madrid has done the impossible. The once unstoppable duopoly of La Liga has been broken.

    With Los Colchoneros currently second in the table, we could finally see the reign of the Spanish giants come to an end.

    Led by the attacking force of Radamel Falcao and Arda Turan, Atletico Madrid has been terrorizing opposing defenses since the start of the season.

    But on top of the attacking power, the defense of Atletico is one of the best in Spain. Boasting two seasoned center-backs as well as the best full-back pairing in La Liga, Atletico is solid on all fronts.

    Fans of Spanish football will have to wait to find out if Atletico Madrid can in fact hold off their in-town rivals. But at this point, no one is more deserving of praise than Atletico Madrid.

    Though many continue to call La Liga a two horse race, Atletico Madrid has breathed life back into the Spanish league.

    While it is true that Radamel Falcao could one day leave Spain, the future of La Liga may rest on his shoulders.

    What teams do you think are the biggest winners and loser at this point? Is Atletico Madrid breaking the duopoly? Will Bilbao turn things around? Don't forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.

    Tre' Atkinson, The Catalan Blood of Bleacher Report. 

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