Our man in Madrid Tim Stannard returns with his weekly round-up as another season of Primera Liga action finally gets underway...
You can only imagine the Madrid manÃ¢ÂÂs Ben Stiller-style scrunching face of fury as he watched Roberto Soldado bang in a hat-trick on Saturday to throw down a gauntlet of doom in the first game of the season - the same one the forward pulls when he canÃ¢ÂÂt quite get his hair just-so, perhaps.
However, it was a happier, smilier one on Sunday night when the Portugal star grabbed his seventh hat-trick for Madrid in a demolition of Zaragoza that was impressive despite the opposition not being much cop, frankly.
Unlike Madrid's sluggish start to last season which began with a goalless draw against Mallorca, JosÃÂ© MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs side have already scored as many goals in their first game as they did in the first five matches of last season. That maybe good news for Madridistas, but not exactly great for everyone else watching on and hoping for something other than 36 white washes this season and two battles against Barcelona.
La Liga Loca can count at least seven reasons for an enormous smug cloud hanging above Barcelona after Monday nightÃ¢ÂÂs 5-0 win over Villarreal - a cloud so dense and orifice-clogging it may lead to mass evacuations.
Leo Messi scored two goals to keep in touch with Ronaldo in the Pichichi chase. Cesc Fabregas looks like he has settled in very nicely, with an impressive league debut performance topped off with a goal. Fellow 'noob' Alexis SÃÂ¡nchez also popped up with a goal. Barcelona played very well against decent opposition without Xavi for the first 55 minutes of the game. Thiago scored one and set up two. Finally, BarÃÂ§a played with just three at the back with only one of those players being an out-and-out defender. Grab the gas masks and run for the hills!
In the space of a year the Valencia forward has transformed from an ever-so-slightly gormless looking forward signed from Getafe to replace to David Villa, to ever-so-slightly gormless looking leading light for the Mestalla men. The striker, who once admitted that he liked to take care of business with the ladies after scoring a goal in the only way a real man can, had three reasons to get jiggy on Saturday night after a hat-trick against Racing gave Valencia a precarious 4-3 win in what was easily the best Primera game of the season (with just two matches gone at the time, mind).
Normally, this feat wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be a enormous surprise, as Soldado tends to score in spurts and Racing arenÃ¢ÂÂt exactly very good these days. But the achievement of this weekendÃ¢ÂÂs triple is that the former Real Madrid manÃ¢ÂÂs second and third goals in the last three minutes turned the game on its head, and prevented angry cries of Ã¢ÂÂUnai out!Ã¢ÂÂ from the volatile Valencia fans, for the next two weeks at least. Instead, the Valencia boss has a fortnight to fix the leaks at the back before his side host AtlÃÂ©tico. Then again, maybe the Valencia coach has a little bit longer than that judging by SundayÃ¢ÂÂs performance from the Rojiblancos...
Some rather slack marking from Sporting gifted the 24-year-old forward two easy headers to give Philippe Montanier his first league win in charge of Real Sociedad. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a testament to a fine youth system - and complete lack of cash - that Agirretxe was one of seven home grown players who started for la Real - many with equally as impossible to spell names such as Illarramendi and Zurutuza.
Yes, they may have lost 4-3 and yes, two goals might have been conceded in the last few minutes for another HÃÂ©ctor Cuper nightmare moment, but the side from Santander did manage to grab three in return - more or less the total LLL predicted for the whole campaign - and they actually looked pretty decent at times. New striker Lautaro Acosta, on loan from Sevilla, certainly seemed like a footballer who had been let of a leash of some kind - unsurprising after just seven league starts for his former club over the past three years.
With a shaved head and pulsating veins, the Sevilla striker is looking lean and mean these days and showed it with two clinical efforts against MÃÂ¡laga to let the upstart moneybags neighbours know who still wears the trousers in Andalusia.
The Osasuna keeper began the day on the bench, but was brought on at the end of the first half and had a sensational match to help win Osasuna a very handy point indeed. The stand-in game-saver sums up the spirit in the Osasuna camp, where scrapping and fighting is the order of the day as defender Sergio, told LLL after the match. Ã¢ÂÂWe know that to win a game or get points we all have to play at 100% with every player giving everything. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs going to be a group of about ten teams fighting not to go down. We have to fight every minute for every point up until the end and hope that everything goes well.Ã¢ÂÂ
A useful if unspectacular win for Betis at a ground where the Andalusians would have needed to pick up three points if they were to stay up this season, but there was still a sniff of second division fodder about the Seville side on Saturday night.
JosÃÂ© MarÃÂa Movilla
ItÃ¢ÂÂs a result that will no doubt be far from the headlines but RayoÃ¢ÂÂs point against Athletic Bilbao in San MamÃÂ©s was a magnificent one for the Madrid side. The scorer of the goal was the club captain Movilla, who has had to hold a squad together through promotion last season, broken promises over outstanding debts to the footballers over the summer and also a player strike in the camp. The equalising effort in Bilbao was a just reward for the 36-year-old midfielder.
Ã¢ÂÂTediousÃ¢ÂÂ was MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs sniffy sentence on MallorcaÃ¢ÂÂs 1-0 win over Espanyol that came about from a deflected shot from Jonathan De Guzman. Michael Laudrup, for one, wonÃ¢ÂÂt really care about the judgement.
Feels comforting to see the Rojiblancos back in the 'Bad Day' section doesnÃ¢ÂÂt it? Like a lovely, snuggly blankie.
With Kun AgÃÂ¼ero leading the line, Atleti would have enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win against Osasuna, despite the fine performance from the aforementioned AndrÃÂ©s FernÃÂ¡ndez. Indeed, Falcao might have done the business, but a contract hiccup with Porto means that the Colombian forward is unable to play for his new team until 31st August.
However, the goalless draw was AtlÃÂ©tico once again making life very difficult for themselves by chucking away silly points at the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n, which was still a lively, bustling place at midday on a Sunday, in a game the side did more than enough to win. Then again, Gregorio ManzanoÃ¢ÂÂs men very nearly lost it in the final seconds, so it could have been a heck of a lot worse for AtlÃÂ©tico.
It could have been a far more challenging Monday for the MÃÂ¡laga manager after SundayÃ¢ÂÂs loss at Sevilla. After all, Eduardo Inda could still have been in charge of Marca - a situation that would have seen the paper calling for the ChileanÃ¢ÂÂs head after the opening day setback. Clearly, thereÃ¢ÂÂs a lot of work still to be done, but a look at some of the names on the team sheet is proof enough that the good times will surely be coming sooner rather than later at the club.
Ã¢ÂÂAthletic was a confused team,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Marcelo Biesla on his league debut for the Basque club after the poor 1-1 draw with Rayo Vallecano.
First item on Manuel PreciadoÃ¢ÂÂs to-do list this week must be getting Sporting a proper striker. Well, itÃ¢ÂÂs probably second behind trimming the old lip tickler. Or maybe third behind trimming the old lip tickler and having a good old swear to start the day. Either way, Sporting are going to struggle this season if they donÃ¢ÂÂt get one, as the 2-1 home defeat to Real Sociedad showed.
The biggest survival lesson in la Primera has already been learned by Granada - getting players to throw themselves to the ground and look hopefully at the referee, as the home side did for much of the first half of Saturday nightÃ¢ÂÂs Betis clash. Although itÃ¢ÂÂs early doors, there was not a lot on show to suggest that GranadaÃ¢ÂÂs stay in the top flight will be anything other than brief.
Mauricio Pochettino has about three days to find a replacement for the departed forward, Osvaldo, or it could be a painful season for the Pericos.
There will be a very indifferent feeling in the Zaragoza camp this week, as the Aragonese side gets one of its four expected thrashings by Madrid and Barcelona this season out of the way early doors.
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