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Tuesday August 23 2016
What we learned from La Liga Week 1

Spanish football’s top flight has returned and Euan McTear analyses five talking points from the opening weekend of fixtures…

1. Real Madrid are reaping the benefits of youth

Back when Florentino Perez first took over the Real Madrid presidency, he established his ‘Zidanes and Pavons’ policy, by which he meant he was going to supplement Galacticos like Zinedine Zidane with youth graduates such as Francisco Pavon.

It didn’t take long for latter half of that policy to fall apart, but Los Blancos finally look like successfully embedding youth graduates into their team once more. 20-year-old Marco Asensio, pictured above, was just as important as Gareth Bale in Sunday’s win at Real Sociedad, with both getting on the scoresheet, while returning youth graduate Alvaro Morata also impressed with his direct style. If Zidane can unlock the talent of the club’s youth teamers then this squad will have an encouraging amount of depth this season.

2. Real Sociedad are lucky they have Geronimo Rulli

With Bale and Asensio lighting it up for Real Madrid, Real Sociedad lost 3-0 and it could have been much worse had it not been for Geronimo Rulli.

The Argentine goalkeeper was arguably the Basque side’s best performer with his five saves, which is a worrying sign for the season ahead. He made the fourth most saves in the League last season and looks like being just as important this year. Re-signing from Manchester City the man they had welcomed on loan the past two seasons was probably the San Sebastian club’s best business of the summer.

3. Messi and Suarez pick up where they left off

Amidst all the excitement of Euro 2016, many fans in Europe seemed to forget just how brilliant Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez had been at the tail-end of last season, when the Uruguayan scored 14 goals and provided four assists in the five match sprint to the La Liga finish line, while his Argentine teammate netted three goals and provided six assists in that same spell.

The pair returned to league action on Saturday afternoon against Real Betis and were as lethal as they had been at the end of the 2015-16 campaign, with Suarez scoring a hat-trick and Messi netting twice. With the imminent return of Neymar, Barcelona fans can expect goals.

4. Atletico missed Antoine Griezmann

On the final day of last season, Antoine Griezmann was judged to have fouled Nolito just after half-time, earning himself a yellow card and a suspension. Three months later, that proved incredibly costly as Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Alaves in his absence.

The Basque side defended as deep as they had last season when they won the Segunda title, which frustrated Los Rojiblancos. Diego Simeone’s men had 27 shots on target, but without the magic of Griezmann they could not unlock the opposing defence and many of those shots were long-range efforts and half chances. Atleti’s reliance on their No.7 could prove costly next time he is missing.

5. Spanish football’s racism problem still exists

In their attempt to match the ‘show’ of England’s Premier League, La Liga unleashed a number of measures this past weekend to improve the product being broadcast around the world. However, one thing the improved visuals and new camera angles couldn’t hide was the fact that Sporting Gijon’s match against Athletic Club had to be paused after racist chanting was directed at Basque midfielder Inaki Williams.

The referee temporarily suspended play and an announcement was made over El Molinon’s tannoy for fans to cease goading the player. It was not a good look, and it is something we’ve seen far too many times before. 

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