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Monday August 29 2016
What we learned from La Liga Week 2

Week 2 of the 2016-17 La Liga season is in the books and Euan McTear analyses five talking points from the weekend’s action.

1. The future may be orange, but it certainly isn’t bright for Valencia

Eibar’s 1-0 victory over Valencia on Saturday afternoon was the biggest win in the tiny Basque club’s history, in terms of the size of their opponents’ fanbase and prestige, but it says as much about Valencia’s fall from grace as it does about Eibar’s recent rise. Although the win came via a controversial penalty, which was scored on the rebound, Eibar probably deserved the win on the balance of play as Valencia were an incoherent mess. They did have a couple of good chances in the first half, but their strikers could not convert. The fact that Paco Alcacer was in the stands ahead of his Barcelona move, while Shkodran Mustafi was on his way to Arsenal, does not inspire much optimism for the white, black and orange side. 

2. Atletico might already be out of it

As the old cliche goes, you can’t win the league in August, but you can certainly lose it. With just two points from their opening two matches, Atletico Madrid may have already self-destructed themselves out of the title race. 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. That was Pep Guardiola’s 2008-09 Barcelona side, but their final points tally of 87 wouldn’t actually have won the League in any of the seven seasons since. As Coldplay would say, nobody said it was going to be easy, but nobody said it would be this hard.

3. Asensio gets one strike, but deserves two more

After gracing the front pages of Madrid paper AS on the Saturday of Real Madrid’s match with Celta Vigo, Marco Asensio didn’t perform to the same level as he had done against Sevilla and Real Sociedad. It wasn’t just the fact that he failed to get on the scoresheet for the first time, but he misplaced a number of passes and his decision-making in the final third was very hit or miss. Still, he is only 20 years old and is allowed an off-day once in a while. Baseball players get three strikes before they’re out and Asensio certainly deserves another few chances in the starting line-up. With a patient Coach like Zinedine Zidane, you’d expect him to receive them.

4. Defensive woes plague Espanyol again

Espanyol conceded the most goals in all of La Liga last season and aimed to address that leakage by bringing in veteran goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez in the summer to start ahead of the inexperienced Pau Lopez. Yet the first two matches of this season have demonstrated that the Catalan side’s defensive issues are deeper than a matter of who wears the goalkeeping gloves. Roberto has played well so far and looks far more confident at coming out and claiming crosses than Lopez ever did, yet he has conceded eight goals, the most in the division, thanks to the lack of cohesion in front of him. It is strange to see a Quique Sanchez Flores side so porous at the back, so maybe the imminent introduction of veteran Martin Demichelis will help.

5. Ter Stegen raises eyebrows - and Barcelona fans’ nerves

The Marc-Andre ter Stegen era has well and truly begun at Barcelona. One of the most curious aspects of their 1-0 win away at Athletic Bilbao was the determination of the German goalkeeper to pass the ball out from the back as he played 62 passes in the match. He completed 51 of them, which was the most by a goalkeeper in La Liga since 2005-06, but there were a number of heart-in-mouth moments for Barca fans along the way, such as when he played the ball directly to Benat Etxebarria, from whom he subsequently saved. Also concerning was that a number of the technically ‘completed’ passes put his teammates in tough situations and led to a number of lost balls in Barcelona’s half. It remains to be seen whether or not Luis Enrique looks for more of the same, or if he will order the German to scale back his commitment to the pass. 

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