El Centrocampista

BACK WITH A BANG! – What to take from this week’s matches

By Richard Thorburn

After weeks of strike action, attention finally turned to ‘ on the pitch’ matters this weekend as La Liga finally returned.

25 goals, 40 bookings, and two red cards later, it was a weekend that gave us just a mere glimpse into what awaits us this season and while the opening round of fixtures – in any league – cannot always be trusted to give an accurate assessment of how a team is going to perform this season, it has highlighted several issues that could be vital come May.

In a week which saw the sale of the Juan Manuel Mata to Chelsea, Valencia began their season at home to Racing Santander in front of 35,000 fans at the Mestalla.

With a section of Valencia fans said to be disgruntled with the loss of the ‘three amigos’ of David Silva, David Silva and now Juan Mata in recent years – it was 6,000 less than the average attendance of last season.

Said to be in something of a transition season the Valencia team, which included new signings Pablo Piatti and Adil Rami, found themselves 3-2 down with just five minutes remaining.

Roberto Soldado scored a fantastic hat trick to dispatch Racing Santander

Fast forward another five minutes and Emery’s side were celebrating a dramatic 4-3 win, thanks to Roberto Saldado completing his hat trick with a quick fire brace.

For a team who according to many are the most likely to challenge the big two of Barcelona and Real Madrid, it is this spirit that will be needed in bucket loads this season.

Since splitting the monotony in both the 2002 and 2004 seasons to clinch the title, it is fair to say that Valencia haven’t really got close to the two giants.

If the new look team however, whose quality is undoubted, can keep showing that never say die attitude of this weekend, then they could get (a little) nearer this season.

On Saturday, Real Madrid laid down a marker to Barcelona with a comprehensive 6-0 win over Real Zaragoza , a game which saw Christiano Ronaldo continue his breath taking goal scoring record for the club.

His hat trick taking his total goals to a staggering 69 goals in a mere 64 games.

While it was that performance that took the headlines, perhaps more of note was the appearance of Kaka who came on as a substitute and scored.

If he can stay injury free then Jose Mourinho has yet another string to his bow in which he will take into battle against Barcelona.

Talking of whom, and not wanting to be outdone by their rivals, Barcelona responded to Madrid’s 6-0 win with a 5-0 win against Villareal.

Even without the likes of Xavi, Villa, Alves, and Puyol, it was with an arrogant swagger that they systematically demolished a side who let’s not forget finished 4th last season.

Despite playing for the majority of the game with ten men firmly behind the ball, Villareal were sliced open at will and the talk before the game concerning Barcelona not having any first team defenders available, quickly became irrelevant.

Fabregas and Sanchez both scored on their debuts.

Elsewhere, a Negredo brace saw Sevilla overcome a disorganised Malaga team which included no less than 5 new signings.

The Spaniard who was so successful in his spell at Almeria a couple of years ago, only took 90 seconds to open his account for the season before adding a second mid-way through the first half.

He will be central to Sevilla’s plans this season.

With a total of £50 million spent this summer, much is expected of Malaga this year.

The Andalucía side looked a little lost at times and if they are too live up to expectations this season, then they will have to ‘gel’ relatively quickly.

Unfortunately for them, that gel isn’t available for purchase.

With Sergio Aguero’s departure to Manchester City last month and now Diego Forlan’s move to Inter Milan confirmed, Athletico Madrid have lost their top two strikers this summer.

Perhaps then it should come as little suprise that they started their season with a disappointing nil-nil draw at home to Osasuna.

Hoping to solve that problem is new signing Falcao who arrives at the club after completing a £35 million move from Porto.

Rated last season as Europe’s most deadly striker, Atletico Madrid will be hoping that they can get his work permit problems solved as soon as possible.

Based on Saturday’s evidence, they need him.Fast.

Spanish football is well and truly back, and I for one can’t wait for the next round of fixtures.

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