FourFourTwo.com's man in Spain, Tim Stannard, assesses which Primera Liga sides will be happy with their weekend's work...
While Barça picked up the three points at Málaga - an outcome even Bernd Schuster predicted before the game - the performance was not exactly sparkling. And once again it reopened the extensive and eternally fascinating debate over whether the team can play with any kind of competence if Leo Messi is absent.
The side were without the injured Argentinean for the Sunday evening’s clash, and didn’t even field Neymar until the second half. “This August, Barça is far from being a regular team,” notes Santi Nolla in Mundo Deportivo, a week after the Catalan club were being hailed as the greatest thing since Shih Tzu puppies after the seven goal thrashing of Levante.
Atlético Madrid have begun the season at a furious pace, with eight goals in two league games. Diego Costa has scored three of them. David Villa hasn’t got any. If La Liga Loca was talking nonsense and the former Barça striker had not been so cheap, the blog would be calling “waste of money” already.
Rayo Vallecano had no chance whatsoever in the 5-0 demolition at the Vicente Calderón, a game that was completely over as a contest after the Rojiblancos went 2-0 up. The challenge Diego Simeone faces now is keeping up this Atlético intensity over the next 36 league matches, with a Champions League campaign thrown in.
The weekend's results
Getafe 2-2 Almeria, Athletic 1-0 Osasuna, Elche 1-1 Real Sociedad, Espanyol 3-1 Valencia, Villarreal 2-1 Real Valladolid, Atletico Madrid 5-0 Rayo Vallecano, Levante 0-0 Sevilla, Malaga 0-1 Barcelona, Real Betis 1-2 Celta Vigo.
A fine start to the season for the new Athletic boss, with Valverde guiding the team to two wins in two. Friday night’s 2-0 victory over Osasuna was technically a home game, but with the new San Mamés yet to be completed, the match was played in Real Sociedad’s ground, with 20,000 'home' fans having made the 60-mile journey.
The Yellow Submarine may still be a little rusty, with three goals conceded in two games, but Villarreal have won two from two to make it a very pleasing return to La Primera after a year submerged in la Segunda. Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Valladolid was sealed after a corking run and shot from Cani, one of the players who could easily have found a better footballing gig when Villarreal went down, but chose to hang around El Madrigal.
An absolute monster of a Saturday night in Cornellà saw Espanyol giving visiting Valencia a proper going over in a 3-1 win. It was a fine sight to behold for a club going through difficult financial times and needing a pick-me-up every now and again to keep the supporters perky and fresh. “It’s the best match since I’ve been a coach here,” revealed an animated Javier Aguirre, “or at least one of them.”
The Galicians had a few problems banging in the goals over pre-season, but that seems to have been knocked out of the their collective system now the real business has begun. Four strikes and four points represent a very solid start to the season for Luis Enrique's new charges, a 2-1 win at Real Betis being their latest result.
A handy point in a 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad and sprightly display to purge the awful 3-0 away defeat to Rayo on the side’s return to Primera football.
The 1-1 draw at Elche which saw a goal conceded after just a minute was an early indication of how difficult it could be to balance Champions League and La Liga responsibilities. “A lot of mistakes were made and we have to draw conclusions,” opined La Real’s manager, Jagoba Arrasate.
Oh dear. Mr Djukic was not a happy Valencia manager at all on Saturday night, having watched his team thrashed 3-1 at Espanyol, despite taking the lead. “We were a joke and we were all ashamed,” fumed Djukic. "Or at least I am ashamed of what my team did.”
Valencia must return to Mestalla next weekend and face a tough, unforgiving crowd that will not tolerate another slip-up. Good thing, then, that the visitors are only Barcelona...
Let’s just say that the Rayo boss was not a happy bunny after 5-0 defeat in the Vicente Calderón on Sunday evening. “We are ashamed, humiliated and upset,” fumed the Jémez in a rather Djukic-esque fashion. “We have to remember that we are the smallest, crappiest team in the division. When we maintain this perspective we can compete,” said the Vallecas club manager.
A point away from home is all very well and good, yet it could have been three, with Almería 2-1 up with just five minutes to go. It was an unfortunate near repeat of last Monday’s opener against Villarreal, a game the southern side led 2-1 with 15 minutes to go. “We are suffering from the sins of being newcomers,” noted Almería boss, Francisco Rodríguez.
The Getafe boss really, really, really does not seem to having a good time of it of late. Fans were moaning about a lack of investment in the squad over the summer, and now supporters in the stands are groaning about a lack of action up front. Getafe had to come back from behind twice against Almería to grab a 2-2 draw - and were reliant on an iffy penalty to boot. “We can’t play with more people in attack, it’s impossible,” exclaimed García in reaction to crowd disgruntlement.
The goalless draw between Levante and Sevilla was an awful game in every single department. There was not one redeeming feature that the blog can remember, aside from the final whistle. The result continues a dismal away run from Sevilla that sees the Andalusian side without a league victory on their travels since they picked up three points at Deportivo last September.
The Pucela club were one of LLL’s tips to go down this season, and have started the season fulfilling the big prophesy with two defeats. “The league has only just begun and there is no need to sound the alarms,” soothed Valladolid boss, Juan Ignacio Martínez.
The mantra from Pepe Mel after the 2-1 home defeat to Celta Vigo in the early hours of Monday morning, is missed opportunities in the clash, something that has been to the detriment of the team since preseason. “You can’t miss five chances against Everton, five against Madrid, five in the Czech Republic and ten or twelve here. You are going to lose for sure,” barracked the Betis boss.
Two matches, two defeats is Osasuna’s start to the season, meaning they are already bottom of the table. And it is all down to attitude, says the boss of the Pamplona club. “It’s not that we do not have goals in us, it’s just that we don’t have a hunger for goal,” was the complaint from José Luis Mendilibar after Friday’s defeat to Athletic Bilbao.