Real Betis 0-3 Levante
The big shock of the weekend occurred at Heliópolis on Friday evening with Levante comfortably beating last season’s surprise package Real Betis. Betis included three debutants in their starting line up alongside a number of players promoted from the youth teams within the last year and their lack of experience was telling up against a well drilled Levante team who took advantage of José Luis Morales’ potency on the counter attack.
It’s early days for this Betis team but with Europa League football on the table for this season and with captain and talisman Joaquín currently out injured, a slow start might mean that Quique Setien’s team are playing catch up in any attempt to replicate last season’s success.
Levante, despite losing Jefferson Lerma to Bournemouth have kept the core of their squad from last season together and their remarkable turnaround under Paco López looks set to continue. They may not be the prettiest team to watch but with a well drilled defence and forwards who relish attacking quickly and directly they could well finish the season more comfortably than the last one.
Barcelona 3-0 Alavés
Real Madrid 2-0 Getafe
A comfortable start for La Liga’s big two with both teams recording home wins. Neither team included any new signings in their starting line ups and it was Messi and Bale who stole the show for their respective teams.
Julen Lopetegui’s first league game in charge of Los Blancos was notable for the inclusion of last season’s forgotten man Dani Ceballos which perhaps points towards an attempt to mold a more youthful Madrid team. Playing with an intensity that was missing in the early going of the previous season Madrid’s high pressing was combined with a slightly less direct style of play indicating that Lopetegui intends to put his own stamp on this team. With Gareth Bale scoring and assisting it appears that he is the man to replace recently departed Cristiano Ronaldo as the fulcrum of this team but with his injury record it’s unlikely that Real Madrid will be able to rely on him to pick the lock against obstinate teams such as Getafe.
While Madrid might not be able to rely on Bale, Barça can ususally depend on Messi to unpick teams when the rest of the squad are running low on ideas. Messi’s ingenious free kick and late second masked a sluggish game from the Catalan team. In the first half Barcelona struggled to find space in the final third and it was only with the entrance of new signing Arthur in the second half that the ball seemed to start moving around with a bit more purpose. Arthur’s assist to Coutinho for Barça’s second goal points towards a tantalising partnership between the two Brazilians but Ernesto Valverde needs to decide on the best way to combine the riches at his disposal.
Valencia 1-1 Atlético Madrid
The big game of the weekend came on Monday evening with European Super Cup winners Atlético Madrid visiting Mestalla. With both teams being active in the transfer market over the summer either team could have shown their ambition for this season with a win.
Both teams lined up in very different versions of a 442 formation which meant that the early going was dominated by a battle for space in the middle of the pitch. Both teams had half chances and Diego Costa and Rodrigo Moreno looked dangerous at either end. As the first half developed Atléti used their full backs to provide width and managed to grab the opening goal with a nice finish from Ángel Correa who had drifted inside from the wing. Despite a period of domination Los Colchoneros failed to add to Correa’s goal and the World Cup winning duo of Lemar and Griezmann were particularly disappointing in the left hand channel.
The second half brought about a braver Valencia performance with the midfielders pressing hard in order to push their adversaries back and create some space for themselves. Their equaliser came from a wonderful first time cross from new boy Daniel Wass and an equally impressive touch and finish from Rodrigo who continues his revitalisation under manager Marcelino. After the hour mark the match devolved into a scrappy contest with mistakes dominating over slick play and clear cut chances betraying both team’s lack of full match fitness. Both teams will be pleased not to have lost but may rue the missed opportunity of opening the 2018/19 season with a win.
Girona 0-0 Valladolid
Villarreal 1-2 Real Sociedad
Celta Vigo 1-1 Espanyol
Rayo Vallecano 1-4 Sevilla
Eibar 1-2 Huesca
Athletic Club 2-1 Leganes
Performance of the week: Antonio Mohamed. The new Celta Vigo manager graced the touchline at Balaidos wearing a full suit and mirrored shades. He’s thrown down the gauntlet for the rest of the league’s managers in the style stakes.
Disappointment of the week: Rayo Vallecano. La Liga football returned to Vallecas for the first time in two years but Sevilla put four past the Madrid team including André Silva scoring more one match than he managed in the entirety of last season at AC Milan.