It was shaping up to be one of the more forgettable weekends in LaLiga but boy, was it worth the wait to see Valencia face Real Betis. Two sides riding a wave of optimism under new management, full of confidence and ready to entertain. There was no tactical battle, no try-not-to-lose mindset. Instead, in its place, relentless attacking football which left everyone satisfied. Yep, even the losing side. It ended 6-3 to the visitors – they were 4-0 up with 15 minutes to play – but there can’t have been many matches which bettered it for entertainment.
Real Madrid also got their title defence back on track as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid drew. Elsewhere fine margins were the order of the day so here are the winners and losers of the weekend.
Valencia lay down yet another marker
The gutting of Valencia continues and with each passing week the decisions are further justified. Far too many relied on their egos and reputation, killing the club from the inside out. Peter Lim was perhaps too nice and handed a lot of responsibility to those who didn’t know what they were doing. However, this year, it’s plain to see that is no longer the case. Valencia are well and truly back.
The acquisitions of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Goncalo Guedes and Andreas Pereira have added an extra dimension to the side. Kondogbia is the glue which holds this team together, both in defence as well as in attack. His all-action displays make it difficult for opposition players to keep him quiet. And let’s not forget that Betis’ midfield has been one of the strongest in the league prior to this weekend.
Guedes’ pace, drive and awareness in the final third is also key when Valencia launch a counterattack. The problem for Valencia is that with every good display Guedes’ price tag moves further and further away from what they could realistically afford. Either way, it’s the moment to focus on the present as opposed to what might happen. Andreas Pereira is a little behind Guedes but there’s already been glimpses of what the Manchester United man is capable of too.
On top of the new recruits are the noted improvements of existing players. Dani Parejo, Jose Luis Gaya, Santi Mina and Simone Zaza all look on another level to last season. But by far the most improved is Rodrigo Moreno. Guilty of lacking confidence as well as being used as a winger, he’s found his feet under Marcelino. His call-up for Spain was just reward for his early season form. Playing just off the main striker, he now appears to believe in himself again.
Second time’s a charm for Cristiano
There’s a misconception when it comes to Cristiano Ronaldo that he’s merely a goalscorer. Perhaps this is in part due to the endless bickering amongst fans of his with those of Messi. Both are much more than goal machines. The fact they score so often means the opposition try to double or triple up on them allowing space for their teammates. They carry a fear factor which shouldn’t be undervalued.
An early season suspension for Cristiano hasn’t helped Madrid settle into their rhythm yet. There’s plenty of quality in their squad but only one Ronaldo. Gareth Bale, Benzema, Isco and even Marco Asensio don’t have the same impact as him. So it’s no surprise to see Madrid fail to kill off teams in the Portuguese hitman’s absence. They’ve created plenty of chances, many of which were missed, but Ronaldo doesn’t do that very often.
In his nine years at Real Madrid, this is the longest it’s taken Cristiano to get his first league goal. Even later than last year when he missed three of the first four matches. Against Getafe, Ronaldo was guilty of missing a sitter. However, instead of letting it prey on his mind he responded in the only way he knows how to. In the 85th minute, a wonderful ball over the top from Isco was brought down and then rifled across the keeper. The scorer? Cristiano Ronaldo of course.
Messi finally gets some help at Barça
After a summer of turmoil and inner-fighting, Barcelona sit pretty at the top of the LaLiga table. They might not always easy on the eye but in Lionel Messi they have the best player of all time. The little Argentine has plenty of experience in leading his country to victory so it was natural shift to do the same for Barcelona. ‘MSN’ is dead. Neymar – and his replacement – are both unavailable. That leaves just Messi and Luis Suarez, but the latter has been ‘missing’ since the start of the season too.
I suppose when you score as many goals as Suarez does, after a few goalless games, it is a crisis. But for Barcelona fans it isn’t just the lack of goals which were concerning. Suarez misses a fair few chances per game, even at his best, but his overall performances have been distinctly average. Unable to link up play or get into the right positions, some fans even called for Paco Alcacer to be given a chance. Yep, things were that desperate.
At the weekend, with his side 1-0 down against Atletico Madrid, Suarez finally reappeared. Sergi Roberto had the time and space to pick out the striker at the backpost to header home. Suarez, who was getting abuse from the Atletico fans, wheeled away with his finger against his lips. Maybe not just a message to the fans at the Wanda Metropolitano but to those who doubt his ability to lead the line. A confident, firing on all cylinders Suarez makes Barcelona even more formidable.
Mic-hell! Malaga are on the road to nowhere
It’s becoming uncomfortable reading for Malaga fans as each week produces yet more misery. A strange summer, which saw the owner publicly go against his manager’s wishes in terms of transfers, hasn’t been much better on the pitch. There’s something massively wrong at the club. The performances aren’t good enough and while Michel isn’t the only one to carry the blame, nor does he appear to be the solution.
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With the greatest respect to Leganes, who in contrast are having a fine start to the season, this was a winnable game for Malaga. However it came with a similar outcome to the rest: no clean sheet, no goals scored. In fact, if you take away the 3-3 draw against Athletic Club, Malaga only have one goal to their name in seven matches. Unable to score or keep the opposition out is a recipe for relegation.
You sense if Malaga were going to turn it around under Michel this was the game to do it in. The fact they didn’t speaks volumes.
After a bright start, Girona are finding LaLiga tough
The early signs were positive for Girona after picking up four points from their opening two games. A draw at home to Atletico was followed by a victory over Malaga. Maybe they could be this season’s Eibar. Since then, in the following six matches, they’ve only picked up two points. I guess the honeymoon period is over.
Girona fans might point to the fixture list being far from kind and they’d have a point. Losses to Athletic Club, Sevilla, Barcelona and Villarreal are hardly grounds for a crisis meeting. But it’s so important to get points on the board early on before sides find their groove and are more difficult to beat. One win in eight isn’t ideal but a trip to Deportivo next week will show where they really are. Three points a must.
The first weekend fixtures after an international break are never fun. The players arrive back from all over the world, on different days, and with very little preparation time ahead of the games. That tiredness and lack of cohesion was on show throughout almost all of the fixtures. If you remove Valencia versus Betis, no other team scored more than two goals.
Hopefully normal service will be resumed next week.
Results in full:
Espanyol 0-0 Levante
Athletic Club 1-0 Sevilla
Getafe 1-2 Real Madrid
Alaves 0-0 Real Sociedad
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
Eibar 0-0 Deportivo
Girona 1-2 Villarreal
Malaga 0-2 Leganes
Real Betis 3-6 Valencia
Las Palmas – Celta Vigo (play tonight)