Madrid - This Spanish season was supposed to see Big Two Barcelona and Real Madrid reestablish their bipolar hegemony, which was broken last season by rebellious upstarts Atletico Madrid.
Or so the theory went. After strengthening their already luxurious squads with the high-quality likes of Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, the twin giants were all set to retake control.
In addition, Atletico - together with other cash-strapped teams like Sevilla and Valencia - had to sell off several of their key players. Everyone predicted the restoration of the duopoly.
Something which has not happened, at least not yet. Instead, there are five teams within just two points of each other at the top, in the closest start to a season since 1996.
"Nobody expected this autumn to be quite so interesting," commented Radio Marca.
"The two giants have dropped more points than expected, while Sevilla, Valencia and Atletico have picked up more points than was predicted."
Sevilla are level on 22 points with Barcelona - though with an inferior goal difference - their highest ever total after nine games.
Also read: Atletico plays Valencia with lead in sight
Former Sevilla winger Jesus Navas, now of Manchester City, said: "What the team is doing this season is something really great. They have surprised everyone with this excellent start."
Sevilla warmed up for Sunday's visit to struggling Athletic Bilbao with an emphatic 6-1 cup win at third division Sabadell on Wednesday, with reserves like Iago Aspas and Jose Antonio Reyes looking sharp.
Meanwhile, Barca will be trying to recover from their Clasico defeat at Real at home to Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Barca will be without injury victims Andres Iniesta and Thomas Vermaelen.
Earlier Sunday, Real Madrid - who are just one point below Barca and Sevilla - will visit midtable Granada, looking for their seventh straight win.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti rested several regulars for Wednesday's cup visit to Cornella, and was delighted with the 4-1 win. "We are really enjoying our matches at the moment," he said.
Ancelotti is hoping that Gareth Bale will be fit to return on Saturday.
Saturday will also see Atletico at home to bottom team Cordoba. Diego Simeone's side are level in fourth place with Valencia, one point behind Real.
Simeone is sweating on the fitness of veteran midfield anchormen Gabi and Tiago.
Saturday's other game brings together troubled Real Sociedad and Malaga, with Sociedad boss Jagoba Arrasate in danger after a poor start.
Friday's game will be between lowly Deportivo Coruna and Getafe.The big match on Sunday - in addition to the Bilbao-Sevilla clash - is the east coast derby between Villarreal and Valencia. Sunday will also see Elche v Espanyol and Levante v Almeria.
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