The Spanish football season kicked off this weekend in the middle of the first heatwave of the summer, but as the temperatures soared into the ’40s some things remained the same in Spain.
1 New season no changes
Although it’s only the first weekend of the season, a quick look at the La Liga table shows Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid occupy the top-four places – the same four teams who finished in the top-four in the 2020-21 campaign, with Barca beating the side that last season finished fifth.
Although there is still a long way to go, it is perhaps a sign that summer with little movement in the transfer market is not going to see much of a shift in power in LaLiga and we can expect few surprises in the race for the title.
2 Barca have life without Messi
The main point of interest over the weekend was how FC Barcelona would cope without Leo Messi and if appearances from their 4-2 win over Real Sociedad are anything to go by, the answer is – reasonably well.
Ronald Koeman’s side played some excellent football as they took a 3-0 lead against Real Sociedad, with Eric Garcia looking comfortable in defense, while the midfield of Pedri, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong worked as well as last season and Memphis Depay was involved in two of the goals.
Martin Braithwaite, who many have viewed as a poor relation to Barca’s superstars, netted two goals and created another and if we remember, Barca still have Kun Aguero, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele to return from injury, then rumors of their demise may have been exaggerated.
3 The old guard rule at Real Madrid
Anyone expecting a revolution from Carlo Ancelotti’s return at Real Madrid will have been disappointed as none of the club’s young players made his starting 11 for their 4-1 win away to Alaves.
Instead, Ancelotti looked to his veterans with Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema all key in the win, while Eden Hazard also looked a lot happier after his start.
There will be doubts about how Benzema and Modric will cope when Madrid have to play two games a week from the middle of September, but they were decisive in Vitoria. Meanwhile, Bale’s display in helping open the scoring implies that the problems he had with Zinedine Zidane were on a personal and not a sporting level and he can still play a big role for the club this season.
4 Atletico stick to the script
A line of thought believes that because their main rivals look no stronger than a year ago if Atletico Madrid don’t do anything stupid, they can retain their La Liga title. The manner of Sunday’s 2-1 win against Celta Vigo did little to dispel that thought.
Two excellent goals from Angel Correa decided the game for Atletico, who limited a Celta side with a reputation for attacking football to just two chances as Diego Simeone’s men showed they have kept the ability to take the opportunities they create while making themselves hard to beat.
With Rodrigo de Paul likely to add more bite in central midfield, Atletico fans have every reason to keep their optimism for this season. Enditem