By James Goyder
It was first blood to Barcelona in the race for La Liga as Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid laboured to a 0-0 draw. Both sides faced a similar test in the opening round of fixtures with away ties against lower level opposition.
Barcelona (photo) passed theirs with flying colors, cruising to a 3-0 victory away to Racing Santander courtesy of goals by Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa. Expectations were high for Mourinho’s first game in charge of Real Madrid but he will have been frustrated by his new look side’s inability to find the net in their 0-0 draw at Real Mallorca.
Messi was the star of last season’s La Liga and he appears to have hit the ground running this time around, opening the scoring after only three minutes with an exquisite chip. Messi is the reigning top goalscorer in La Liga but will probably face stiff competition in the shape of team mate David Villa for this season’s Pichichi.
Villa seldom scored less than 25 goals at Valencia and, fresh from an impressive World Cup campaign, will be looking to fill this boots for Barcelona this season. He got off to the best possible start, getting his name on the score sheet with a second half header in his Barcelona debut. Andres Iniesta grabbed another first half goal with a well taken finish and goal keeper Victor Valdes thwarted Racing Santander with a penalty save at the other end moments later.
Real Madrid’s campaign got off to a slightly less auspicious start as they had to settle for a point from their match at Real Mallorca. Gonzalo Higuain was leading the line for Mourinho’s men with new signings Angel Di Maria and Sergio Canales playing just behind him along with last season’s outstanding performer Cristiano Ronaldo (photo).
Despite the wealth of attacking talent at their disposal Real Madrid failed to find the breakthrough against a resolute Real Mallorca defence. With an influx of new arrivals the side might take a while to find its feet but Mourinho’s new charges cannot afford to drop too many more point if they are going to eclipse Barcelona.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are in a La Liga league of their own but three of the sides in the hunt for the remaining two Champions League places made impressive starts. Valencia might have lost the services of both David Silva and David Villa but they showed they are anything but a spent force with a 3-1 win away to Malaga.
Sevilla left star strikers Frederic Kanoute and Luis Fabiano on the bench and still managed to win 4-1 away to Levante in a result which doesn’t bode too well for the newly promoted side.
A ninth place finish last season was not a satisfactory return for Atletico Madrid although having won the EURO Cup in a season which Real Madrid finished empty handed will have provided some consolation for their disappointing domestic performance.
There are signs that they might finally be ready to step out from the shadow of their more illustrious neighbors. A well earned 2-0 win against Inter Milan in the European Super Cup raised one or two eyebrows and was followed up with an emphatic 4-0 win at home to Sporting Gijon a few days later. Diego Forlan scored twice with the Uruguayan striker seamlessly making the transition from scoring goals in the World Cup to scoring goals in La Liga.
Last years Segunda Division winners Real Sociedad look the best equipped of all the promoted sides to stay in La Liga. They got straight back to winning ways with a 1-0 home win against Villarreal.
Hercules, have secured the surprise signature of French striker David Trezeguet. Reinforcements cannot come soon enough for the newly promoted side who lost 1-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao. Striker Fernado Llorente, who made sporadic appearances for Spain at the World Cup, claimed the only goal of the game.
Elsewhere Espanyol beat Getafe 3-1 and Osasuna and Almeria drew 0-0, as did Deportivo la Coruna and Real Zaragoza