There’s a story brewing under the surface in La Liga. Beyond Julen Lopetegui’s sacking at Real Madrid and the continued focus on getting a regular season game to the USA is something far less glamorous and dramatic.
Alavés sit second on the table. Only one point behind the league leading Barcelona and one point ahead of Sevilla and Atletico Madrid.
This is a team who only three seasons ago weren’t in the top flight. The club have spent only 14 seasons in La Liga in its history and they play out of a ground with a capacity of under 20,000.
There has been nothing flashy or extraordinary about Alavés’ performances. In fact, the La Liga season began with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Barça.
But since then Alavés have almost always gotten the result. Five of their games have been decided by a single goal – three of those being 1-0 wins.
The only exception to these low scoring games was the 5-1 win over Rayo Vallecano with Abdoulaye Ba’s 35th minute red card playing a part.
So how does this small club from Spain’s Basque country find itself in Champions League contention?
Abelardo Fernández’s men put the result above the performance. The team is more than happy to sit back, absorb pressure and score on the counter and it’s a system that has worked for ten games thus far.
It is a system that values the sum of its parts and what that can produce above all else. And the sheer act of grinding out the result and the result alone is what has kept them near the top of the table.
None of their upcoming fixtures suggest a slide down the table either. A trip to 15th-placed Eibar is followed by a visit from the likely to be relegated Huesca. Leganes, currently in 18th, will take Alavés to the end of November.
On paper, a maximum nine points seems not only doable but likely. If Alavés can continue to get results, a title challenge is not outside the realm of possibility and continental football next season may very well be a fixture.