Spanish La Liga Review
La Liga, Week One Review by Mark Young
After the strikes that marred the first weekend of La Liga, normality resumed as the first balls were kicked in the first round of fixtures in Spain's premier competition.With normal business in Spain, comes big wins for Real Madrid and Barcelona, with both teams topping the table and of course the obligatory goals for Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Jose Mourinho's side were away at Real Zaragoza on Sunday evening and it might as well have been a pre season match. Real were looking confident after a good pre season that had only one blemish, losing the Super Copa to Barcelona. Ronaldo got himself a hat trick on the first day of the season. Marcelo, Xabi Alonso and Kaka also got involved in the 6-0 drubbing as the big second favourites this campaign started the season as they will no doubt mean to go on. Fabio Coentrao was the only debutant for Madrid in the starting XI but his pace and trickery are going to cause many a La Liga defence problems this season.
Barcelona kicked off their campaign in Monday night's game at home to Villarreal who have just been drawn in the Champions League ‘"Group of Death" and who in recent seasons have been the big two's biggest threat. But the best team of their generation, Guardiola's Barcelona just brushed them aside with what seemed relative ease. A 5-0 score line to the home side with two new signings on the score sheet was a terrific way to start the season. Barca started with a 3-4-3 formation with Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas both starting and scoring for their new side along with another product of the youth system, Thiago Alcantara, and a brace for the wonderful Messi. On this performance their pre-season, odds-on price, looks about right.
The big spenders of Malaga were under the microscope this weekend as they had a tough opening fixture against Sevilla. It didn't go to plan as a Negredo header opened the scoring for Sevilla within two minutes and the striker doubled the lead after 26 minutes. Malaga looked a bit flat up front and their only goal came courtesy of a free kick from Santi Cazorla, but what a free kick it was. It was perfect as the Spanish international curled the ball into the net between post and cross bar - the keeper had no chance. It will be interesting to see how Malaga get on, but they will need to have a bit more about them in the coming weeks to pick up early points and it will take time for the new signings to gel.
The most entertaining game of the weekend took place at the Mestalla on Saturday evening between Valencia and Racing Santander. A goal from Roberto Soldado got things going with a goal in the first minute but netted at the wrong end seven minutes later to level things up. Racing then took an unexpected lead through Acosta with half an hour left in the first half. The visitors went in 2-1 up and stretched the lead even further ten minutes after the interval through Adrian. It wasn't looking good for Valencia but Adil Rami, the centre back signed from Lille in the summer, halved the deficit and Racing were once again in Valencia's sight. It wasn't until a stunning finale to the game where things changed. Soldado grabbed the equaliser two minutes from time and just as it looked like the game would finish as a draw the striker bagged his hat-trick goal to send the home fans away happy in what was the game of the weekend.
Elsewhere this weekend Real Sociedad beat Sporting away 2-1, Betis won away 1-0 in Granada, Getafe were held at home to Levante as were Athletic Bilbao to Rayo Vallecano, both finishing 1-1. Mallorca beat Espanyol 1-0 and a disappointing start for Atletico Madrid as they were involved in a goalless draw at home to Osasuna. They will be expecting better when Falcao plays as the new look side will be looking to challenge after losing Forlan and Aguero.