Valencia a joy at Real Madrid as Messi lifts the gloom for Barcelona: Primera Liga so far
Only two weeks into the new Primera Liga season and there are a number of early talking points, with the encouraging early form of Marcelino's Valencia chief among them.
The Primera Liga is only two games in, but it has already provided a magnificent game of football.
Real Madrid's four goal draw with Valencia at the Bernabeu on Sunday was frenetic and fascinating. Madrid, the best team in the world, were showing off their championship trophy in their first home league game.
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Zinedine Zidane’s team had outclassed all rivals in their previous games, from Manchester United to Barcelona, and they were expected to beat an old rival who finished a woeful 12th in the Primera Liga last season.
They did not, however. Valencia, under strict new manager Marcelino, who did so well at Villarreal before a disagreement led to a prompt departure, were superb.
Especially noticeable were Brazilian goalkeeper Neto, home-grown midfielder Carlos Soler, 20, and Toni Lato, 19, the latest young full-back from Valencia’s full-back factory, which has produced Jordi Alba, Juan Bernat, Jose Gaya in recent years.
They buy quality young full-backs too, like Marc Montoya from Barcelona and Joao Cancelo from Benfica.
Gaya now plays in a more advanced role and performed well alongside Valencia’s best player Geoffrey Kondogbia, the 24-year-old French defensive midfielder, who had been so impressive at Sevilla before joining Monaco in 2013 and Inter Milan in 2015.
He is on loan this season from Inter and was man of the match against Real Madrid after spending 90 minutes blocking, intercepting and creating, as well as scoring the team's second goal.
Valencia, in their striking red, yellow and blue away kit, were a joy and their start to the season bodes well after two 12th place finishes.
Valencia would have won had it not been for two goals from Marco Asensio, the 21-year-old Mallorcan who continues to be a revelation at the Bernabeu.
Asensio is fast, strong, he shoots, takes free-kicks and crosses. His shots, often from distance, appear to come with no back lift from his foot before he strikes it. Asensio, who has scored on his debut in every competition he has played in with Madrid, is confident, versatile and is becoming a key Madrid player.
He saved Madrid’s big celebration day with an 83rd-minute equaliser in a game where Gareth Bale received a muted reaction from the crowd, but it was Valencia who really made people sit up and take notice.
Marcelino has clear ideas of what he wants and sanctioned the sale of Nani to Lazio on Thursday’s transfer deadline day ahead of their next game after the international break – a tough home game on September 9 against Atletico Madrid, who are playing their opening games away until their new stadium is finished.
Real Sociedad are the early league leaders, one of three teams along with Barcelona and Leganes who have won both games.
Barca beat Alaves away 2-0 with Lionel Messi opening his account for the season with two goals as he inspired them in the second half. He also missed a penalty.
The mood remains glum around Barca, however, and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu remains chief culprit in the eyes of many fans, but the late signing of striker Ousame Dembele, 20, from Borussia Dortmund for a club record (and second highest transfer fee ever) of €145 million (Dh631m) has been welcomed.
His buy out is €400m, almost twice what PSG paid for Neymar’s buyout and Barca hope the young France international will be a like-for-like replacement of Neymar and the chief creator of chances for Messi and Luis Suarez.
Real Betis, playing in their redeveloped 61,000 seater stadium, beat a Celta Vigo side who have lost both their opening games. It is also surprising that Malaga, Las Palmas, Alaves and Villarreal have lost their opening matches.
The promoted teams have fared well, with second division champions Levante and runners-up Girona picking up four points from their opening two games – though both have played both their games at home.
Girona, playing in the top flight for the first time in their history and now part-owned by Manchester City, recorded their first ever win at the weekend over Malaga, having led Atletico 2-0 the previous week before drawing 2-2.
The clubs will enjoy the international break this season before they play five league games during the rest of September and early October.
That is when the table will really begin to settle.
Updated: August 31, 2017 05:00 PM