MADRID, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) — The new Spanish La Liga season kicked off at the weekend with a few surprises, and two of the big three winning their games. Here are four things we learned this weekend.
1. Fail to plan, plan to fail
FC Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde produced two surprises in his starting 11 as Barcelona began the season with a 1-0 defeat away to Athletic Bilbao with both Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets on the subs’ bench.
Consequently, Athletic controlled the first half as Barca lacked midfield fluency, and although this was addressed when Rakitic came into the game at the start of the second half, Valverde’s side had surrendered 45 minutes.
Rakitic and Busquets were rested because of fatigue after Barca’s pre-season trip to the USA which saw them play in Miami and Michigan, with their last game stateside just six days before the start of the season.
Barca’s summer also saw them visit Japan, with the associated long-haul flights, jetlag and extra risk of injury – and key men Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are now both injured. It may mean more money for the club, but it also certainly means problems for the coach.
2. Bale has a role
When Zinedine Zidane said earlier in the summer that it would be best for everyone if Gareth Bale left Real Madrid, nobody would have expected the Welshman to start Los Blancos’ first league game of the season – but that’s just what happened on Saturday.
With Eden Hazard injured, Bale not only started the 3-1 win away to Celta Vigo, but was decisive, setting up Karim Benzema for the opening goal of the game and producing an all-round impressive display.
With Hazard sidelined until September, Bale will probably now play Madrid’s next two games, which goes to show that maybe Zidane should not have spoken too soon, and that the Welshman deserves more respect.
3. Joao Felix looks the real deal at Atletico
The 120 million euros (133 million U.S. dollars) signing of 19-year-old Joao Felix by Atletico Madrid this summer raised eyebrows. The forward had only played half a season in the Benfica first team and it seemed an extraordinary price to pay for a player who has promised much, but who has very little experience.
It has taken just a summer to show that 120 million euros is probably money well spent, as the Portuguese shone in pre-season and on Sunday produced an impressive La Liga debut, filled with pace, skill and fantasy until he was forced out of Atletico’s 1-0 win against Getafe with cramp.
There is still a long way to go and nobody knows how he will react to the rigors of an intense season that lasts until May, but the early signs are that Joao Felix will be worth the outlay.
4. A great return for the promoted clubs.
The three clubs promoted to the top flight this season all kicked off their campaigns with good results, as Osasuna won away to Leganes, Mallorca beat Eibar 2-1 and Granada came back from 4-2 down to claim a thrilling 4-4 draw away to Villarreal.
It may still be early days, but the signs are that none of them have come up to La Liga to merely make up the numbers, and that is positive for the competitiveness of the league.
LINK ORIGINAL: Xinhuanet