BARCELONA AND MESSI TOP OF ROLLERCOASTER 2018-19 LALIGA SANTANDER SEASON FULL OF SURPRISES
The 2018/19 LaLiga Santander was another rollercoaster season full of surprises and joys, with Lionel Messi and Barcelona again coming out on top, but many memorable stories up and down the table.
Ernesto Valverde’s super consistent Barça side dominated the LaLiga standings from start to finish, going top on week three and never slipping up, picking up two memorable El Clasico victories over Real Madrid along the way.
Blaugrana captain Lionel Messi’s 36 goals in 34 LaLiga games won him a sixth career Pichichi top scorer prize, with teammate and close friend Luis Suarez and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema joint runners up with 21.
The tightest defence of the 20 teams was again at second-placed Atletico de Madrid, where goalkeeper Jan Oblak secured a fourth successive Zamora prize for the league’s top shot-stopper after conceding just 27 times in his 37 games.
Third place went to Real Madrid, who did not have such a happy 2018/19. Their 12 league defeats came under the leadership of three different coaches – Julen Lopetegui, Santi Solari and the returning Zinedine Zidane – who all struggled for results.
Beyond the top three this was a season of surprises and rollercoaster rides. R. Valladolid, RC Celta, Sevilla FC, D. Alaves, RCD Espanyol, Getafe CF, Valencia CF and Real Betis all spent time in the top four, clearly proving the benefits of LaLiga’s insistence on better financial structures off the pitch.
In the end Getafe’s brave top four challenge - with veteran striker Jorge Molina outstanding - was bettered by Valencia’s recovery from a slow start to win nine of their last 13 games and clinch the final Champions League qualification spot.
There was also drama in the race for the Europa League places, with Getafe and Sevilla eventually joined in that competition next year by Espanyol. Inspired by forwards Borja Iglesias and Wu Lei, the Catalan capital side clinched seventh place on the final day, ahead of also fast-finishing Basque neighbours Athletic Club and Real Sociedad.
The relegation battle was as nerve-wracking as ever, with emotions high as veterans Iago Aspas and Santi Cazorla came through injury and adversity to inspire revivals and save their teams, RC Celta and Villarreal respectively, from the drop.
In the end the jump in level proved too much for LaLiga Santander newboys Huesca and Rayo Vallecano, who both headed back to LaLiga 1l2l3 after just a single season. The final day saw Girona join them on the way down, thanks in no small part to an unfortunately-timed bad run of eight defeats in nine games.
Some moments stood out over a very unpredictable season. Eibar’s joy at their historic 3-0 victory over Real Madrid in November was matched by the euphoria at Leganes who beat Barcelona 2-1 in September. Real Betis were capable of beating each of the top three, including wins at both the Camp Nou and the Santiago Bernabeu, but also losing heavily to Levante and Leganes.
2018/19 proved again that anything can happen in LaLiga… roll on August and the 2019/20 season!