La Liga: Real Madrid and Barcelona hoping to continue rip-roaring starts

There was a glut of goals last weekend in the opening round of La Liga fixtures. The usual suspects — Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid — all got off to winning starts. While things were eminently tougher for Atletico, they managed to get over the line. We will look ahead to two intriguing clashes this weekend — Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona, and Levante v Real Madrid.

Barcelona begin post Lionel Messi era with thumping win

After more than 18 months without fans, Barcelona hit their stride quickly last weekend as they swept aside Real Sociedad 4-2. The Nou Camp may seem strange without Lionel Messi painting brushstrokes on the pitch. However, Barcelona were utterly dominant for large periods against Sociedad. Gerard Pique had the honour of scoring the first goal of the new La Liga campaign, and Barcelona looked assured.

Four players, including Eric Garcia, made their Barcelona debuts, and they all made a good impression. A double from Martin Braithwaite put Barça 3-0 up. Although there was late drama when Sociedad pulled back two goals in three second-half minutes, a Sergio Roberto effort in stoppage time sealed the points. Memphis Depay, and Antoine Griezmann were also a constant thorn for Sociedad.

Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia looking comfortable at the back for Barcelona

It can often take time for new players to gel with their team-mates. And defensive partnerships are the bedrock of the team. Against Sociedad, Pique and Garcia looked comfortable. The Catalan duo completed 74 passes during the 90 minutes, and they recovered five balls. Although there was a rocky spell towards the end of the second half, the game had all but been won.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta makes worrying statement about club’s finances

Things may be looking good on the pitch, but off it, these are disconcerting times for Barcelona. The pandemic has seen the La Liga giants haemorrhage money, and the wage bill looks bloated. Barça president Laporta admitted the club are €1.35bn (£1.15bn) in debt. Laporta, who was elected as president in March, bemoaned the situation, describing it as a “terrible inheritance”.

Athletic Bilbao looking to pick things up after drab draw against Elche

Athletic Bilbao may have only picked up a point against Elche, but they were rather wasteful when chances arrived their way. On Saturday, Barcelona will roll into town, and Bilbao will be looking for their first home victory over Blaugrana in two years. Last term, Barça came out on top in both La Liga clashes, so revenge will firmly be on Bilbao’s minds.

Real Madrid make powerful statement of intent against Alaves

After they were pipped to the title by Atletico Madrid last term, Real Madrid are desperate not to come up short again. Real cantered to a 4-1 victory over Alavés last weekend, and Karim Benzema picked up from where he left off at Euro 2020, by helping himself to a double. Although Joselu pulled one back from the spot for Alavés, it was scant consolation.

All of Real’s goals against Alaves arrived in the second half, but Los Blancos were firmly in charge of the match throughout. A quick look at the stats showed Real had 19 attempts on goal, and they made nearly 200 more passes than their opponents. Carlo Ancelotti — who has returned for a second spell in the dugout at Bernabéu — is trying to build something special.

Meanwhile, Real recently announced Thibaut Courtois has signed a long-term contract extension that will keep him at the club until 2026. Courtois — who kept 17 clean sheets for Real last term — is delighted he is prolonging his stay in the Spanish capital. He said: “Signing for Real Madrid was a dream come true, and I want to keep making history with the club.”

Levante v Real Madrid: A tale of past encounters

Levante may be one of the more unheralded teams in La Liga, however they won’t be looking to make up the numbers against Real Madrid. Last season, Levante finished 14th, but in their previous clash at the Bernabéu back in January, Levante stunned the home crowd as they clinched a 2-1 win.

On that day, Jose Luis Morales, and Roger were both on target. However, Real played most of the match with 10 men after Eder Militao was sent off in the ninth minute. Although Real have dominated this particular fixture, Levante will be hoping to play the role of party poppers on Sunday evening.

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