6 big talking points from LaLiga's opening weekend
It’s slightly earlier than usual, but a new season of LaLiga has exploded into action with some surprising results, top performances and history being made.
Barcelona and Real Madrid kicked off the season with home games against mid-table oppositions, while pretenders to the crown Atletico faced a tough opener away to Valencia.
Elsewhere, there was a battle of European contenders at the Estadio de Ceramica, a memorable debut for a Sevilla player and a strong dose of reality for Seville’s other big club.
Here are six talking points from a memorable weekend of games.
#1 Barcelona and Madrid align in style
The dichotomy between philosophies and playing styles has always been one of the most fascinating aspects of the Barcelona/Real Madrid rivalry.
This was no more apparent than during the Guardiola and Mourinho era, where Barcelona’s team of home-grown stars thrilled the world with their football while Real Madrid’s Galacticos 2.0 served as the perfect arch-nemesis.
With Julen Lopetegui in charge now, the gap in styles has never been smaller.
Madrid loaded their team with playmakers on Sunday night, as Casemiro was left out to make room for Dani Ceballos. Along with Toni Kroos, Isco and Marco Asensio, Madrid had full control of the ball and centre of the park, while Gareth Bale had the explosiveness to help his side change gears.
Emphasis on team play and sharing the responsibility seems to be Madrid’s chosen plan in the post-Ronaldo era.
Meanwhile, Barcelona are still reaping the benefits of having Lionel Messi. The defending champions were frustrated for 60 minutes before the little genius’ free-kick opened the scoring.
From that point, it was normal service resumed. Barcelona peppered the Alaves keeper with shots and found two more with a trademark cut-in-and-strike from Phillippe Coutinho and a touch of class from Messi.
The expectation is that Messi will dominate on the way to yet another title, but perhaps Madrid will find an inventive way to ensure the gap doesn’t widen any further.