1 - Is Valencia on the path towards relegation?
Valencia have lost their first two games of the season for the first time since 1999. Their 1-0 loss away at Eibar was marred by horrific defending and even shoddier finishing. All their centre-backs are up for sale, and the one that wasn’t, Shkodran Mustafi, just left for Arsenal. Their forward and arguably best player, Paco Alcacer, is heading to Barcelona to not even start. Their most established player remaining, Dani Parejo, was ordered to train alone earlier this month after trying to force a move to Sevilla. Now, they sit bottom of the table and their supporters are on the verge of an atomic bomb meltdown. The thought of this once prestigious and proud club possibly being relegated is almost inconceivable but their current path spells trouble. If there was ever some light at the end of the tunnel, its that after that disastrous start in 99’ the club astonishingly finished 3rd in the table and the runners-up in the Champions League. Unfortunately, Gaizka Mendieta and Claudio López aren’t walking into that locker room anytime soon.
2 - Las Palmas flying high with a rejuvenated Kevin-Prince Boateng
If you were searching for the best story the league has to offer through two weeks look no further than the club in a different time-zone then mainland Spain. For the first time in 27 years, Las Palmas are atop the La Liga table and it’ll stay that way for a while longer because of the International break. With their latest 5-1 hammering of Granada, this most aesthetically pleasing side has scored 9 goals through two games, a tally that last season took the club until December to reach. Manager, Quique Setién, has been able to strike a terrific balance between attack and defensive responsibility, so much so, that he even has bad boy Kevin-Prince Boateng playing with effort for the first time in years. The prince has hit the back of the net in both games and what was once seen as an extended holiday has turned into a full blown resurrection. Hell, if I was Mario Balotelli I’d be on the first flight out to Gran Canaria. In a league that can often times feel predictable or feature clubs that stray their philosophies far too much to an extreme, Los Amarillos have concocted the perfect balance and we are all the much better for it.
3 - The Lucas Pérez sale is a crippling blow to Deportivo on-and-off the pitch
Player’s come and go. Especially the good ones, at small clubs, only to be plucked by the richer and more prestigious. Supporters expect this but it doesn’t make it sting any less. But when factoring in the talent and that he’s also one of them, the blow could be lethal. Lucas Pérez was born in A Coruña and cut from the Galician cloth through- and-through. He knew he wanted to play professionally but need to go away to make his dream a reality. So, he made stops in Alavés at age 16, Atlético in 2007 and then Rayo Vallecano. From there he headed to the Ukraine, for two and a half years, and then continued on to Greece. At last, the Greek club allowed him to go to Depor on loan, everything coming full-circle for the young boy who celebrated in the Riazor when they last won the league title. He scored on his debut, and despite suffering a knee injury that kept him out for three months, he was able to finish the year with six goals in 21 games, with none larger then against Barcelona to clinch survival on the leagues final day. Depor made the loan permanent, buying the striker for a meager €1.5m. Lucas repaid them by netting 17 goals, including a streak of scoring in 7 games in-a-row, a feat only two Spaniards had achieved over the last half-century (Quini at Sporting Gijón in 1979-80 and Dani Guiza in 2007-08 at Mallorca). Furthermore, no other Galician has scored more than 12 in a season, for any club, in the same period. The man who kissed the badge on his jersey after scoring because it was “home” is now gone to Arsenal and the club are emptier for it.
4 - Atlético remain stuck in neutral
Griezmann. “If we carry on like this we’ll be fighting not to go down.”
Upon first glance, one could interrupt this as a heat of the moment comment from a brilliant player used to winning in style. You may be right, but if you stripped the badge and the last names from the jersey it would be hard to disagree. For the second week in-a-row Atleti drew against a newly promoted side. What most fans saw as practice sessions before the season began have turned into outright panic. Only once since the three-points-for-a-win system was introduced in 1995 has a team won La Liga with no wins from their opening two matches (Barcelona 08-09). You could excuse the first match result because of the countless wasted opportunities and the once in a lifetime strike from Manu García as full-time was going to be called. But this match was different. Sure, there were three or four decent chances, but the side lacked cohesion and wore defeat on their faces like a man rejected by his prom date. League titles may not be won in August but when you have Real Madrid and Barcelona in your league, they can surely be lost.
5 - Pace maker sales go through the roof in Catalunya after Ter Stegen’s performance
With Claudio Bravo’s sale to Manchester City late last week, one era ended but another one began. The starting role is finally Ter Stegen’s, and his alone. Barca goalkeeper’s are expected to be good with their feet, often times strapped with the responsibility of igniting the counter-attack. Bravo was tremendous in this respect so you could excuse Mr. Stegen for wanting to keep it business as usual. What many didn’t expect was for the German to go full-on Xavi. He played 62 passes in the match, completing 51 of them, which was the most by a goalkeeper in La Liga since 2005-06. A few of the passes had culés on the brink of Cardiac arrest, with none more suspenseful then when he played the ball directly to Benat, from whom he thankfully saved. Other passes, although completed, put his teammates in no-mans land eventually leading to turnovers in their own half. It remains to be seen if it was just the nerves or if Lucho will have to reign in his keeper, either way, we all will be the healthier for it.
Musings and other random facts
- Malaga came back to tie from 2 goals down in the final 25 minutes for the first time since 1953.
- Real Madrid have won 14 consecutive La Liga matches. They are 1 win away from matching their personal record (15) and, 2 away from matching Barcelona’s all-time record (16).
- Most games by Non-Spanish players in La Liga history: 466 Donato 422 Dani Alves 384 Karpin 370 R.Carlos 369 Mauro Silva 368 Djukic 350 Messi.
- Espanyol have conceded 8 goals in the first two league games for the first time since 1983-84.
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