Monday September 3 2018
What we learned from La Liga Week 3

Real Madrid and Barcelona carried on impressive early form but the weekend’s highlight was El Gran Derbi, as Daryl Hammond explains.

Benzema a natural goalscorer

Karim Benzema is back. Maybe he never left. But after scoring only five league goals last season, questions had to be asked. With Cristiano Ronaldo alongside him for years it seems he had to play a sacrificial role but still was expected to score 20+ goals a season. He was sacrificing his reputation as one of the world’s most potent strikers in return for trophies. But with the Portuguese gone, Benzema is showing his many dissenters he is still one of the world’s best with four goals in his last two games. This includes two exceptionally-well take goals against Leganes which means he has scored against all 33 teams he has faced in his La Liga career. Just like he managed to keep Alvaro Morata out of the team, he may be able to fend off the challenge from newly re-signed striker Mariano Diaz

Keylor Navas not truly appreciated

One of the most sobering moments of the weekend occured before Real Madrid’s match against Leganes. The Madrid players proudly showed off their trophies in their clean sweep of the UEFA individual awards from the past season. But while Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos took to the field, Navas trudged back to the bench and put a training top on. Days after being named the top goalkeeper in European competition he was dropped so €35m summer signing Thibaut Courtois could make his debut. It was another slap in the face of Costa Rican who has been loyal in the face of continuous rumours and transparent attempts to replace him.

El Gran Derbi is still fantastic

From the atmosphere alone you could probably sit with your eyes closed and listen to the Seville Derby for 90 minutes. But then you would miss a must-watch game of football. Last season’s derbies offered up 12 goals between the two matches, and Betis finishing above their neighbours for the first time since promotion added more spice. What this year’s first meeting lacked in goals was made up for in drama. First was the dismissal of Roque Mesa before 37-year-old Joaquin came from the bench and minutes later bagging the winner with a header.

Ernesto Valverde’s team talks

For whatever reason, the game against Huesca was the first time in four matches Barcelona had been leading at half time, and 3-2 is hardly a comfortable score line. Yet they ran out 8-2 winners in what looks on paper an emphatic result. They have scored three goals in the first half of matches this season as opposed to nine goals in the second. Whether it’s because teams who defend doggedly against Barca eventually tire or Valverde lights a fuse under his slow-starting side, they turn it up a notch in the second 45 minutes.

Lionel Messi incredibly selfless

Lionel Messi, ever the record-setter, became the first player to register 150 assists in La Liga in the 21st century. Most of those (23) have ended as a Luis Suarez goal, and he did the Uruguay another favour in handing the late penalty despite being on a hat-trick. Two goals and two assists on the night, nobody could get close to him.

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