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Leagues: La Liga

Five things we learned from La Liga

Madrid (AFP) – Barcelona’s perfect start to the season came crumbling down with a shock defeat to Alaves, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann were back among the goals for Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Here are five things we learned from week three in La Liga:

– Barca still ‘MSN’ dependent

Barcelona’s movement in the transfer market had been widely hailed as the best of any Spanish side this summer as they added depth and youth to a squad that had won back-to-back La Liga and Copa del Rey doubles.

Yet, in leaving Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez on the bench among seven changes, coach Luis Enrique exposed a host of new recruits in a 2-1 defeat to newly-promoted Alaves at the Camp Nou.

The ‘MSN’ trident of Messi, Suarez and Neymar has been the backbone of Barca’s success in the past two seasons. However, with all three heavily involved in South American World Cup qualifying, weekends following an international break could pose Barca a major problem for some time to come.

– Ronaldo willing to rest

That it took Cristiano Ronaldo just five minutes to net on his first appearance for two months in a 5-2 rout of Osasuna that took Real to the top of the table was nothing new.

What was different was Ronaldo’s willingness to come off with the game well won just after the hour mark.

It took until April for Ronaldo to miss a minute of La Liga action last season, but he was then sidelined for a series of key games by knee injuries that have blighted him towards the end of the campaign for the last few years.

Finally, Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane seems to have convinced the Portuguese that missing out on padding his goalscoring stats in the short term will be of more benefit come the business end of the season.

– Griezmann kickstarts Atletico

If Barca are depended on three of the best strikers in the world, Atletico’s goalscoring burden appears to fall solely on the shoulders of Antoine Griezmann.

Diego Simeone’s men hadn’t managed a goal from open play in drawing their first two games of the season with Alaves and Leganes, but came alive with a 4-0 win at Celta Vigo to kickstart their season.

Griezmann was involved in three of Atletico’s four second-half goals as his brilliant cross was prodded home by Koke for the opener before Euro 2016’s top scorer headed in his first two goals of the season.

– Ayestaran latest for Valencia chopping block

A run of eight coaches in four years shows the problems at Valencia run deeper than who is on the bench, but former Liverpool assistant manager Pako Ayestaran could be the latest for the chop after a third defeat in as many games left Los Che joint bottom.

Valencia did at least show pleny of spirit in battling back from 2-0 down with 10 men to level before Ruben Castro sealed a 3-2 win for Real Betis at Mestalla in the third minute of injury time.

Ayestaran has seen his squad gutted over the summer with Paco Alcacer, Shkodran Mustafi and Andre Gomes among those to leave, but as he showed in sacking his friend and business partner Gary Neville last season, Valencia owner Peter Lim isn’t slow to pull the trigger.

– Eibar’s fairytale continues

Basque minnows Eibar’s ascension to La Liga was meant to be a one-season wonder, and indeed it might have been had they not been saved from relegation in 2014/15 by Elche’s demotion for financial irregularities.

However, now in their third season in the Spanish top flight, the side with just a 6,000 capacity ground continue to punch above their weight.

Sergi Enrich’s stoppage time winner grabbed an unlikely 2-1 win at Granada on Sunday despite playing for an hour with 10 men following goalkeeper Abel Riesgo’s first-half red card.

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