It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Real Madrid were the team who would blast away opponents, whilst embattled Barca would struggle. The tables have turned
Zidane’s rotations make Real dizzy against a solid Levante
A 1pm football fixture in Spain will, no matter how many times it happens, always be unusual. Something odd in Zinedine Zidane’s brunch menu made the manager a bit wobbly in his traditionally solid decision-making, as his poor choice in the starting line-up ultimately became a burden too heavy to overcome in Los Blancos’ draw against newly promoted Levante (1-1).
Yes, the Granota side hadn’t lost a game yet and even managed to knock-down Villarreal on Week 1, but their disciplined defending and tidy game plan shouldn’t have succeeded if Real had gone all-in from the beginning. Instead, Madrid couch-potatoed in the early plays and, before they knew it, they were 0-1 down thanks to a defending mistake and a sneaky Ivi finish.
Bad news kept piling up as Karim Benzemà got injured minutes later. Luckily for Los Blancos, their president’s babycrying earlier in the week – Florentino Pérez insists that his team is getting damaged by wrong referee calls – seemed to have some sort of effect, as Sergio Ramos’ equalizer was scored after a blatant foul when climbing on top of a Levante defender to head the ball inside the box.
The second-half was a head-spinning showcase of inaccuracy and desperation by the home team, in what means their second draw in a row at Santiago Bernabeu against teams coming from Valencia.
‘It’ (Messi) feasts yet once again on a hapless Espanyol
Knowing that a win could pull them four points ahead of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona entered the pitch with a blood-thirsty desire of quickly ending their match-up against arch-enemy RCD Espanyol, in a decaffeinated derby that only went on as long as carnivore number-ten Leo Messi wanted (5-0).
He was clearly offside in his first strike, but his beautiful finish (straight to the angle) made up for some of it. Before half-time, his two goals had made Espanyol’s defense come crashing down.
The Argentinean genius, after two lackluster games with his national team where he realized once again that being the best in the world isn’t enough when your team mates are performing awfully, was indeed helped by a Barça that is slowly putting together the jigsaw in Ernesto Valverde’s mind. After Messi’s hat-trick, Gerard Piqué and Luis Suarez capped off a scandalous score (5-0), maybe too much of a punishment for a more deserving Espanyol.
However, the big news wasn’t on the pitch. Before and after the game, several tables and information points were displayed in the outside of the Camp Nou stadium, where Barça fans could join in and add their vote towards a no confidence motion driven by former presidential candidate Agustí Benedito. And Bartomeu and his board should worry: even after winning 5-0, fans flocked to the tables in order to express their disgust at the current management.
Dirty, ugly, goal-less draw between a reborn Valencia and Atlético
Mestalla’s clash of titans ultimately delivered a fair draw between two sides that ditched most of their attacking firepower in order to keep a clean sheet and allow the least number of chances inside their box (0-0). Something that, frankly, is quite expected from Cholo Simeone’s Atlético de Madrid, but that has Valencia fans ecstatic after a couple of seasons with ridiculous numbers of goals conceded.
This battle of attrition was mostly played in midfield, with many interruptions, fouls and tackles that didn’t make the ref’s task easy. Valencia got short-handed in this sense, but they managed to keep up with Atleti’s brutal pace. At home, the Valencianista side has regained part of its magic thanks to an amazing atmosphere and fan support. The result? A clean sheet in both games played on their turf to date.
Meanwhile, Atlético have already warmed-up towards a huge date in their calendar: next week, they will take on Málaga in the first game ever played in their new and shiny Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
Real Sociedad blows Deportivo out of the water
They’re the most surprising squad to date, and a new football delicatessen this weekend away from their home turf proved that they are in an state of supreme confidence (2-4). Eusebio Sacristan’s Real Sociedad sit at the top of the league right next to Barça, with an impressive nine out of nine points in three games and a tremendous efficiency both in attack and in their defending.
Juanmi and Illarramendi, with quick opening goals, and Llorente and again Illarramendi with late closers, attacked a sinking SS Deportivo de la Coruña: the team has only managed to scrape one point this season. If they keep up the losing streak, they’ll won’t be afloat for much longer.