Football

La Liga opening weekend proves uneventful

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Considering the hype and attention surrounding the new La Liga season, we were treated to a rather uneventful campaign-opener. 11 goals were scored, with four goalless draws involving the likes of Real Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia.

Let’s focus on last season’s top four specifically. Barcelona overcame their San Mames nightmare - avenging their 4-0 Spanish Super Cup defeat to Athletic Bilbao to earn a 1-0 victory through Luis Suarez’s excellent second-half volley.

The champions looked far from their best in front of goal with Suarez, in particular, guilty of spurning presentable chances to put the game out of Athletic’s reach.

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Pivotal Vermaelen? 

However, the defensive pairing of Javier Mascherano, who continues to grow from strength-to-strength at the heart of Barcelona’s back-line, and Thomas Vermaelen, whose return to fitness could prove pivotal in this season’s title race, was as solid as it’s been for a few seasons now.

The few times Bilbao threatened to breach a way through, covering full-backs Dani Alves and Jordi Alba were on hand to preserve any danger.

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For Real Madrid it was a frustrating opening day to the new campaign, as Los Blancos were held to a goalless draw by new-boys Sporting Gijon at El Molinon.

Rafael Benitez’s reign got off to a disappointing start as Real looked toothless in attack and vulnerable defensively, perhaps fortunate to escape without embarrassment.

Antonio Sanabria came agonisingly close to giving the hosts the lead when his first-half header crashed against the Madrid cross-bar before landing safely.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a penalty appeal turned down, as Benitez’s concerns over where his side are going to score goals continues to grow - with Ronaldo looking unfit and still not at his most brilliant best.

Prized striker

Real won’t panic, but the return to fitness of Karim Benzema will be key providing an excellent target man for the likes of Isco, Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to exploit. Wavering interest from Arsenal in the French centre-forward, needs to be quickly put to bed as Benitez cannot afford to lose his prized striker.

Continuing an extraordinarily drab opening to the new season, Atletico Madrid claimed a narrow 1-0 victory over newly-promoted Las Palmas at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday. Antoine Griezmann once again proved how valuable he is to Diego Simeone, grabbing the only goal of the game with a deflected free-kick, midway through the first-half.

Although Atletico thoroughly deserved the victory, Simeone will no doubt be demanding improvement from his side with Sevilla and Barcelona their next two fixtures in La Liga.

One huge positive for the Argentine were the performances of new summer arrivals - ex-Chelsea defender Filipe Luis and former Porto front-man Jackson Martinez. Luis looked solid on his return to La Liga and Martinez showed glimpses of the sort of form which attracted the interest of some of the biggest names in Europe.

Unconvincing

Simeone’s summer signings will need to time to embed within the squad and adapt to life at the Vicente Calderon, but an unconvincing opening day win will hardly have Barcelona quaking in their boots.

The constant trend of lack of match action on the opening weekend could be summarised no better than at Rayo Vallecano and their goalless draw with Champions League hopefuls Valencia.

An utterly forgettable first-half was followed by a slightly improved second period, with former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo coming closest in injury time, seeing his powerful effort tipped away.

Valencia travel to Monaco in their Champions League qualifier second-leg with a comfortable lead in tact, following a 3-1 victory last Wednesday. Nuno Espirito Santo will be expecting a dramatic improvement if indeed his side do enter the group stages of Europe’s biggest club competition.

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Topics:
Football
La Liga
Barcelona

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