After months of continuous speculation, Gareth Bale has completed an £85m move to Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur on the day that Los Blancos eased past Athletic Bilbao comfortably. The transfer took so long to be completed that Madrid had to embarrassingly take down a stand erected specially to announce Bale to the Madridistas prior to the 3-1 win. Sunday was not all about Bale, however, as a player he knows well will no doubt be stealing some of the morning’s headlines due to an incredible display. Luka Modrić, goaded as the worst Madrid signing of all-time last year, turned in a performance of genuine quality which made every one of his former doubters feel slightly sheepish. The Croat linked up perfectly with Isco and played so well that sections of the crowd burst into spontaneous applause whenever he received the ball – surely something Bale will aim to emulate in the near future.
Barcelona have a new man in charge but are enjoying the familiar feeling of being top of the league and having Lionel Messi almost single-handedly secure three points. The Argentine roared to the top of the Pichichi standings too as he helped Barcelona past a tricky game with Valencia, who made life tough in the 3-2 win. After Messi’s hat-trick, Helder Postiga bagged a quick-fire brace on the stroke of half-time, briefly calling for chants of ‘Soldado who?’, to set up a tantalising second 45 minutes. No further goals were scored, though Jonas did strike the woodwork for Valencia, but the second-half stalemate suited Barcelona perfectly and sent them into first place. La Liga, like the rest of Europe, now enjoys a brief siesta before the next set of games, though with the amount of internationals within the ranks, an injury could prove to be the only downside of Tata Martino’s near-seamless transition into the Barcelona hot seat.
Upon their return to the top flight, Villarreal briefly topped the table as they won their third consecutive game against Osasuna. Jérémy Perbet, Javier Aquino and Ikechi Uche scored in the 3-0 win which was made to look easy by the league’s newcomers, but was thanks partly due to the lifeless showing from their opposition. At 2-0 and comfortable, boss Marcelino sent out a clear message by sending on star player Giovanni Dos Santos, who helped Uche score the third in a ruthless display of confidence and counter-attacking football. Whilst it is too early to judge, especially as the team has not faced a top-seven contender yet, Marcelino’s men are looking like promising candidates for a European finish this season. In other news, the insane scheduling of the match meant that the two sides kicked-off in August and finished in September!
Following the defeat by Villarreal, the Osasuna board reportedly held emergency talks about the future of coach José Luis Mendilibar. The Pamplona-based side are currently pointless from their three games so far this season and sit rock bottom of the table – a position that is not an unfamiliar one during Mendilibar’s two year tenure. The team has scored just once this season and clearly in need of some defensive reinforcements. The 3-0 home defeat at El Sadar prompted the club’s directors to convene but a decision was reportedly put off until the resumption of La Liga after the international break.
Sometimes statistics don’t tell the full story and that is what happened when Rayo Vallecano played Levante on Friday night. The most important fact was the scoreline – 2-1 to Levante – but they somehow managed to record the win despite having just 25 per cent possession against 10 men and two shots on target. Conversely, 10-man Rayo, not renowned for playing possession football, dominated the game and recorded 23 shots, eight on target and hit the woodwork once. Boss Paco Jemez would have been left feeling a sense of injustice when Levante scored in the 93rd minute from a swift counter-attack and only their second shot on target.
ENHANCED ODDS: Get Italy, Netherlands and Belgium to win at 14/1