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La Liga title race wide open as Real and Barca stutter

La Liga title race wide open as Real and Barca stutter

FC Barcelona's Gerard Pique and fans react. (Photo: REUTERS/Nacho Doce)

MADRID: Real Madrid and Barcelona have long dominated La Liga, with 15 of the last 17 titles between them, but times may be changing.

After the success enjoyed by the Spanish giants, with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leading the charge, their run of titles was broken last season by Atletico Madrid for the second time in eight years and that could signal a new era.

Real Sociedad are the surprise pace setters in the league as they sit three points ahead of Real Madrid, Sevilla and Betis.

With only five points separating Sociedad from seventh-placed Osasuna, this year's race to the league title appears to be a tight one. In fact Barcelona are not even in that mix as they lie ninth and trail the leaders by nine points.

Real Sociedad are not the only surprise package of the season. Rayo Vallecano and Osasuna, who are both tied with Atletico on 19 points, took points off Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively in midweek LaLiga action.

After their relegation from the top flight in 2019, Rayo earned promotion last season and are now surprisingly high-fliers - the only team to win all their home games this season.

Their last victory was the most significant - beating Barcelona 1-0 on Wednesday, which led to the sacking of Ronald Koeman as coach of the Catalans. Rayo host Celta Vigo on Monday.

Osasuna have been as impressive as Rayo but their biggest accomplishments have come away from home. They have the best La Liga record on the road this season, having won all of their away games until Wednesday's 0-0 draw at Real Madrid.

They will have another huge challenge to keep their streak alive on Saturday when they travel to Andalucia to face Sevilla.

Trying to keep up with Real Sociedad's pace, Real Madrid travel to Alicante to face Elche in the day's early kickoff.

As for Barcelona, they will host Alaves in the late game with Sergi Barjuan, the coach of Barca B, in charge as caretaker manager while the club try to hire Xavi Hernandez.

The former Barca and Spain great is manager of Qatar's Al-Sadd and Barca must reach an agreement with the club.

Other games this weekend include the Basque Country derby, when Real Sociedad host Athletic Bilbao, and the clash in Madrid between Atletico and Real Betis.

Betis, under former Manchester City and Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini, travel to the Spanish capital having made their best start to a season for 60 years. The last time they had 21 points after 11 games was way back in 1963-64.

Source: Reuters

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