Madrid face first big test of season, as Celta challenge Barça’s perfect start

Tim Stannard looks ahead to away trips for the Big Two, after Atletico Madrid marched to the top on Tuesday night... 

La Liga Loca likes to think of all managers in La Liga being just two bad results away from the chop. Especially as nothing sends the sensation-seeking FourFourTwo editors into a Hulk Smash! fury more than a “Rafa, oh he’ll probably be alright in the end” story. 

To be fair, where there was money in La Liga – well, borrowed money anyway – that narrative was probably not too far away from the truth, with plenty of cash to pay off contracts in a panicked jiffy.

Everyone is a little bit more sensible now, but that doesn't mean that some coaches aren’t already under pressure this early in the campaign. One of those was David Moyes at Real Sociedad. Before last weekend, the Basque side hadn’t scored a goal, but all that changed with Imanol Agirretxe managing two. Unfortunately for the Scot, Espanyol managed three.

Griezmann at the double

But La Real had another chance on Tuesday and Agirretxe came up trumps once again with a hat-trick in a 3-0 win at Granada to see Moyes leaving Andalusia “very happy”. The news wasn't so good on the road for Nuno at Valencia, whose team crashed 1-0 to the very sprightly Espanyol for the Mestalla men’s first defeat of the season in La Liga. But the coach says all is well behind the scenes. “The image (in the dressing room) is solidarity and hard work. I have never had any doubts about my job or my players.” Friday’s home game against Granada should be a very spicy affair. 

Tuesday’s third game saw Atlético Madrid beating Getafe in a drama-free match with two goals from Antoine Griezmann. That is La Liga’s equivalent of leading a morning news show with the confirmation that the sun rose. The victory lifts Atleti to the top of the table, at least until the end of Wednesday night when Barcelona would quite like to reclaim their spot. But that might not be so easy as the Catalan team are off to Celta Vigo, the league’s very in-form team who've managed 10 points from 12 so far this season and beat Barça in the Camp Nou last term. 

However, the headlines in Spain have been dominated by political hypotheticals and what would happen if Cataluyna became independent. The consensus is that it would have to form its own league with matches like Cornella against Prat, with Barcelona turning into Celtic according to the sports minister Miguel Cardenal, who is often at pains to point out that he is a Basque-born Athletic Bilbao supporter so is merely following the letter of FIFA law in this matter. When Luis Enrique was asked about the possibility of La Liga breaking up, the bigger-fish-to-fry Barça boss answered that “right now, I can imagine anything”. 

Real test

Speaking of all things independence seeking, Real Madrid face their first difficult game of the season with a visit to San Mamés. Seeing as Athletic Bilbao rested their no-nonsense forward line of Raúl García and Aritz Aduriz for last weekend’s defeat at Villarreal, the away trip might by a tricky one for a team still without James, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos. Madrid are taking a record of no goals conceded up north but Ernesto Valverde has promised the visiting keeper that “Sorry Keylor, but we are going to score”. Hopefully that doesn’t send the Costa Rican into floods of tears again, in a repeat of his deadline day drama. 

Keylor Navas

"O rly, Ernesto?"

NEWS Navas: I cried on deadline day

Sevilla’s season might be getting a whole lot worse, with a trip to the volcanic land of Las Palmas. The match for the geeks is almost certainly going to be Levante taking on Eibar. The match for those who like a drink is almost certainly going to be Rayo hosting Sporting. The match for those hoping for supporter dissatisfaction will be Málaga facing Villarreal, with the hosts yet to score this season and an owner that was taking on all-comers in broken English on Twitter over the weekend. 

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