La Liga Matchday 4 - Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on fire, as Valencia face crisis

La Liga has proven to throw up a surprise in every matchday to date for the big sides, with Barcelona and Atletico dropping points in the opening three match days, but this time around none of the big three clubs fell by the wayside as all secure convincing victories.

Barcelona were back to their best after defeat to Alaves last weekend, taking on another newly promoted side this weekend. Leganes had built a reputation for conceding few goals but were powerless to the forces of MSN at full blast in a 5-1 victory. Lionel Messi scored twice and set one up as Luis Suarez scored once and set two up, with Neymar also scoring and winning a penalty, only for Rafinha to add a magnificent fifth. The only blot on almost perfect performance will be the late consolation goal conceded as Luis Enrique tinkered with a 3-4-3 approach.

Atletico Madrid have also had a slow start to the season but came back to life this weekend up against Sporting Gijon with Antoine Griezmann and substitute Fernando Torres both securing braces as their own trident was completed why Kevin Gameiro. The game was over within minutes as the Madrid side went 2-0 up within five minutes, and unlike Barca, saw out the result to seal a 5-0 win over the side from the northern coast.

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Whilst they may have grabbed the headlines, it was Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid who produced one of the most important results of the weekend, defeating Quique Sanchez Flores’ new look Espanyol side away from home without Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. James Rodriguez, thought to have been discarded, starred and scored Madrid’s second goal after a Benzema opener, to equal Barcelona’s 2010/11 record for 16 consecutive league victories, though they may have been fortunate as Sergio Ramos convinced the referee that the ball hit his head, rather than his hand, whilst on a yellow card with the scores level at 0-0.

One of the headlines of the weekend came from Bilbao, where the clash between Athletic and Valencia saw Los Che remain rooted to the bottom of the league with no points to their names. Pako Ayestaran, previously Liverpool’s assistant manager, is under increasing pressure as his side fell to a fourth consecutive defeat despite having led at San Mames. Alvaro Medran opened the scoring in the second minute but the lead was short lived as an Aritz Aduriz brace gave his side the three points for the second time this season.

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Villarreal also continued a strong start to the season since recovering from the shock departure of Marcelino, defeating Real Sociedad at El Madrigal. Sansone’s strike from the halfway line added yet another brace to the goals scored in La Liga this weekend, despite Alexandre Pato’s penalty miss, and put an end to the game by half time, with Joseba Zaldua sent off for Real Sociedad in the dying moments of the game.

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Sevilla also saw their remarkable run without an away win extended, with their last away victory in La Liga coming on the final day of the 2014/15 season, as they failed to see off an SD Eibar side who ended the game with nine men. After an impressive draw with Juventus in midweek, Luciano Vietto opened the scoring before Eibar goalkeeper Yoel was sent off just before half time. Whilst Sevilla should have seen the game out, they allowed Pedro Leon to equalise on the hour mark and even in spite of Dani Garcia’s late red card, the Basque side held out for a draw.

There were also two red cards in Seville as Real Betis were the more fortunate of the two sides as they secured a 2-2 draw against Granada. Granada picked up their first point of the season, and it could have been three had Ezequiel Ponce converted a late penalty, but his effort was saved by Antonio Adan. Bizarrely, Betis substitute Dani Giménez was also sent off from the bench for two yellow cards, both for dissent.

On the Canary Islands, UD Las Palmas maintained their early push for European football as they sit third in the table, level on points with Barcelona and behind only Real Madrid. A tenth minute penalty from Momo was enough to see them come back from defeat against Sevilla last weekend in the best possible way against Malaga.

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On the other hand, Celta de Vigo started last season in fine form but are in somewhat of a crisis following a 0-0 draw with Osasuna, leaving both sides in the bottom two. It was Celta’s first point of the season with Eduardo Berizzo also coming under pressure despite a draw in the Europa League against Standard Liege.

The final fixture of the weekend saw Alaves take on Deportivo in a dull 0-0 draw which leaves both sides stranded in mid table. Newly promoted Alaves remain unbeaten, with victory over Barcelona and draws up against Atletico Madrid and Sporting Gijon before Depor, whilst the outfit from A Coruna went two games in a row without scoring since Lucas Perez’s departure to Arsenal.

La Liga continues to be as unpredictable as ever, with Las Palmas the surprise at the start of the season this time around. Real Madrid have shown under Zidane to be a formidable outfit, winning every game to date, but attentions will now turn to the jam packed midweek schedule of La Liga which will see Atletico Madrid travel to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona in a mouthwatering clash.

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