1) Poor on defensive set pieces, high defensive line, an obsessive focus on playing out from the back and an array of attacking talent. No not Barcelona but Carlo Ancellotti’s Real Madrid. Los blancos started the season with a new look approach to match their new look team in a barely deserved victory over a brave Real Betis. Only a brilliant header late on from Isco from a Marcelo cross, prevented a disastrous start to the new season. There will be much for Ancelotti to ponder after this victory and it will be a difficult job to form a cohesive unit
from the undoubted talent at his disposal. Last night they were far too open with Modric and Khedira in midfield and a front four of Isco, Ozil, Ronaldo and Benzema. The latter four were particularly shy on work rate and if they are continue to pursue with their new style they will certainly have to improve this side of their game. However a win is a win and with a number of players to return to the side one would suggest that there is plenty of improvement to come. Real Betis put in an enterprising effort throughout the game and Cedric, Verdu and Juanfran made impressive debuts and are sure to cause lots of problems to La Liga clubs over the season.
2) There is life in this Barcelona team yet. The 7-0 demolishment of Levante is even more impressive given that the first 6 goals were scored by half time. Levante were awful yet one still had to be impressed with the desire of the champions. Notably, Messi dispossessed opponents on numerous occasions in the opening period in the final third. Pedro played wide on the left cutting in to great effect with Cesc Fabregas another to make enterprising runs into the space vacated by Lionel Messi. Alexis too had a decent game on the right and the attacking four players looked to have an excellent balance between them. With the Supercup game coming up during the week some players were rested and Neymar was not deemed fit enough for 90 minutes. It remains to be seen what shape Tata Martino’s eleven will take once all are available. Overall, an impressive start but much more tricky assignments are ahead.
3) The gaping chasm between the big 2 and the rest was particularly apparent after Malaga’s visit to the Mestalla. The standard of the game was average at best and Malaga are an extremely depleted side after the summer departures. A long season surely lies ahead. At least Valencia can claim the win. They have a couple of players to the return to the side including Jeremy Mathieu but based on Saturday night will find it hard to score goals this season. Helder Postiga looks short of the power required of a top level forward and they may need to find alternatives here. Young wide players Fede and Viera played encouraging matches and one suspects they will need these and Ever Banega, who was there most effective player against Malaga, to continue with this form if they are to challenge for a European spot this season.
4) Love him or hate him (and many do) Diego Costa is a match winner for Athletico Madrid. He came to the rescue in an excellent 3-1 away win against Sevilla. He harassed, he fought, he chastised and still argued some more but was a constant thorn in Sevilla’s side. He scored the first two for los Rojiblancos, either side of a spectacular long range effort from Diego Perotti. It was an ideal start to the season for Diego Simeone’s side, which will also fight in the champion’s league front this season. David Villa did not score but had some promising moments and with a similar playing staff to last season they will hope that the club that continue to progress this season. Based on this win, that does not appear unreasonable.
5) Iker Muniain scored the winner for Athletic on Saturday against Real Valladolid and in doing so matched his goal tally for the entire of last season. It is hard to believe that the Spanish international is still only 20 years old but it could be argued that he has regressed (Or at least developed as many thought he would) over the last 18 months. It has always been a criticism that he doesn’t score many goals. He has many qualities and if he can continue to find the net Athletic could be in for a good season and bigger clubs may be sniffing around for the talented Basque.