The opening round of matches of Spain’s La Liga was played over Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Here are some things we learned as the ball got rolling again in Spain.
1. Business as usual at Real Madrid
Real Madrid started their title defense with a 2-1 win away to Almeria, four days after they claimed the European Super Cup with a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
If coach Carlo Ancelotti used his old guard for the Super Cup, he was true to his pre-game promise of more squad rotation against the newly-promoted side on Sunday, The Italian made six changes to his starting 11 – although Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois were both in the side and are likely to remain in it for most of the campaign.
Real Madrid have plenty of options to swap players around all over the pitch in what will be a packed season, but perhaps they do need to spend money to bring in a back-up for Benzema.
2. Still work to do at Barca
Five summer signings (and the promise of more on the horizon) make Barca the biggest spenders in La Liga this summer, with the club that owes over 1.3 billion euros selling off some of their assets such as TV rights in order to do so.
Xavi Hernandez’s men kicked off against Rayo Vallecano full of optimism after a positive pre-season, but against their rugged and brave rivals, they learned that La Liga is tougher than friendly matches against teams who are turning up for a pre-season payday.
There were moments of good football from Barca, but it seems clear Xavi still has work to do and it must be worrying that they improved after Frenkie de Jong – who the club is trying to sell – came on as a second-half substitute.
3. Morata back with some help from Joao Felix
Alvaro Morata returned from two seasons in Italy with two goals as Atletico Madrid began their campaign in positive fashion, sweeping past Getafe 3-0.
Morata is often criticized for his finishing, but he produced two excellent strikes to put Atletico 2-0 up before Antoine Griezmann came off the bench to add a third.
Although Morata grabbed the headlines, Joao Felix was also vital for Atletico, helping to set the Spain striker up for both of his goals.
The Portuguese player cost 120 million euros three seasons ago and has needed a lot of time to mature, but if he can turn in displays like this every week, he will finally start to justify his transfer fee.
4. Financial issues underplayed but there in the first weekend
Barcelona’s financial problems and solutions have been written about a great deal in pre-season, but the Catalans are not the only team in La Liga currently struggling to comply with strict financial fair-play rules.
Although they beat Elche 3-0 to go joint top, Real Betis have been forced to sell defender Marc Bartra to meet requirements, but were nevertheless still unable to include any summer signings in Monday’s squad.
Almeria’s new arrivals were all left out against Real Madrid, and the club will be forced to sell star signing Sadiq in order to inscribe them, while Cadiz supporters protested against the lack of summer investment as a team virtually unchanged from that which struggled to survive last season lost 1-0 to Real Sociedad.
The rules are there to ensure teams don’t live beyond their means, but it seems some are finding it hard to do just that. Enditem