Trouble at the top – La Liga

“And so, after two weeks of La Liga, we have the usual scene. Barcelona and a team from Madrid at the top, only the latter are Rayo Vallecano, the team from the ‘hood who have won their two opening games and are threatening to be this season’s Levante. Their cult-hero striker Michu is now the darling of Swansea in the Premier League, but Rayo may have found a valid replacement in Leo Baptistao, a young Brazilian who made his debut at Betis on Saturday night and scored the winner.

I watched most of the game on Saturday night – La Sexta’s ‘open’ match having been brought back to the half-decent time of nine o’clock – and the quality of the football and the game in general were well worth the sofa time. Betis were curiously off the pace, but nevertheless look as though they can sort themselves out, rather as they did last season after their shocking start – but their cause would be helped if they could keep hold of the excellent Benat Exteberria, suddenly the talk of Spain. Rayo, on the other hand, played some splendid stuff – quick, slick and easy on the eye, and thoroughly deserved to win. The derby with Real Madrid in Week 5 (in Vallecas) looks like being a very interesting game now.

It’s getting difficult to review the entire weekend’s programme at the moment, with two games still to be played on Monday night, but suffice to mention that if Valladolid defeat Levante then they will join Barcelona and Rayo on the early-doors podium. I guess that this sort of beginning is the one where hope springs eternal, where we begin to fantasise about a league whose progression will not inevitably include another slug-fest between the big two, interesting though that can be on its own terms. The realist in us also suspects that results such as Getafe’s 2-1 win over neighbours Real Madrid on Sunday night are really the consequence of early-season rustiness, for all that such an analysis seems to patronise the efforts of the minnows. Tell me it ain’t so! I’m happy to listen.”

Is this just a false start from Real Madrid? Are Mourinho’s men capable of turning their abysmal season around? Continue reading here for Phil Ball’s viewpoint.

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