MADRID: The Spanish football season kicked off with the La Liga sans Lionel Messi. In the middle of the first heat-wave of the summer, the temperatures soared into 40 degree Celsius. But some things remained the same in Spain. Here are the four main things from the first weekend.
New season, zero changes
Although it is only the first weekend of the La Liga, a quick glance towards the table shows Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid occupy the top-four places. Co-incidentally, these four teams finished in the top four of the 2020/21 campaign, with Barcelona beating the side that finished fifth.
There is still a long way to go in the league. But it could be a sign that little movement in the transfer market will ensure less surprises in the race for the title.
Barcelona can have life without Messi
The big point of interest over the weekend was whether FC Barcelona will be able to cope in life minus Lionel Messi. If appearances from the 4-2 win over Real Sociedad are anything to go by, the answer is -- yes, they can.
Ronald Koeman's side played some excellent football as they took a 3-0 lead with Eric Garcia comfortable in defence while the midfield of Pedri, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong worked well. Memphis Depay was involved in two goals. Martin Braithwaite netted two goals and created another, Xinhua reports.
If one remembers, Barca still have Aguero, Fati and Ousmane Dembele to return from injuries. Messi's departure to Paris Saint-Germain will still be a stern test for Barcelona in the coming matches.
The old guard rules at Real Madrid
Anyone expecting a young revolution from Carlo Ancelotti's return at Real Madrid was in for disappointment as none of the youngsters were in the starting eleven for their 4-1 win away to Alaves.
Instead, Ancelotti locked the veterans Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema. All three played key roles in the win while Eden Hazard also looked a lot happier after his start.
There will be doubts on how Benzema and Modric will cope when Madrid has to play two games a week from mid-September. Bale's display on Sunday in helping open the scoring implies that his issues Zinedine Zidane were on a personal level, giving a chance for him to play a big role this season.
Atletico sticking to the script
Defending champions Atletico Madrid began their title defence on Sunday in a 2-1 win against Celta Vigo.
Two excellent goals from Angel Correa sealed the game for Atletico, who showed that Diego Simeone's men have kept the ability to take the opportunities created by them. With Rodrigo de Paul likely to add more bite in central midfield, Atletico fans have every reason to keep their optimism high this season.