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16-Sep 2020 Wednesday 8:02 PM (10 days ago)               #1
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La Liga Takeaways: Crisis-Hit Valencia Enjoy Derby Delight

The new La Liga season has kicked off, and despite the big clubs not playing, the opening weekend of games in Spain still produced some amazing action.

The top match of the round — the derby between Valencia and Levante — lived up to the billing as Valencia claimed an amazing comeback victory to bring some joy to the club amid the recent chaos they’ve been going through.

Meanwhile, Real Sociedad survived to claim a point at Real Valladolid despite missing key players due to COVID-19, and some big-name managers made their debuts for their new clubs.

SBOTOP takes a look back at the main takeaways from La Liga’s opening weekend of matches.

Valencia get big derby win, but more challenges coming

All the drama surrounding Lionel Messi and Barcelona this offseason has somewhat overshadowed the fact that Valencia are another massive Spanish club in crisis.

Valencia fans are unhappy with owner Peter Lim, who has proceeded to part with many of the team’s top players this summer due to the club’s poor financial situation.

New Valencia boss Javi Gracia’s side looked primed for a potential upset as a result, and Levante looked on their way to their first win at the Mestalla when Luis Morales scored within the first minute.

But instead of folding, Valencia fought back and came from behind — not once, but twice — to score a resounding 4-2 victory over their local rivals.

The win was a testament to the Valencia players’ pride that amid all the adversity around the club at the moment, they were still able to rally and kick their season off with a great result.

Of course, this derby win shouldn’t overshadow the fact that it could be a difficult season ahead for Valencia — both on and off the pitch. Their squad remains short on quality after a lack of investment, and the fan unrest against ownership is unlikely to subside anytime soon.

But at least they got to get one over their rivals, which should be one of the top La Liga 2020 highlights for Los Che fans.

COVID-hit Sociedad lucky to salvage draw

COVID-19 cases are back on the rise in Spain, and Real Sociedad have been hit particularly hard by recent infections.

Their big summer signing, David Silva, tested positive a few weeks ago, as did star forward Mikel Oyarzabal. Last season’s top scorer, Willian Jose, also tested positive days before their first match against Real Valladolid.

With Silva and Willian Jose out, and Oyarzabal only starting on the bench, Imanol Alguacil’s side struggled against Valladolid, who took the lead on 39 minutes. While La Real controlled much of possession, they were unable to create too many goalscoring chances.

It took a disastrous error from Valladolid keeper Masip, who let in a weak free-kick slip through his hands, for Sociedad to get their equaliser.

Obviously, Sociedad figure to be a much better side once they get their best players back. They will especially need Silva to fill the void left by Martin Odegaard in midfield.

However, Sociedad’s situation is a reminder that clubs — in Spain and around the world — will just have to cope with the occasional COVID-19 infections moving forward until a vaccine is found.

Big-name managers have differing debuts

Unai Emery's first La Liga match ended in a 1-1 draw

Unai Emery feels confident ahead of Villarreal’s next La Liga match

The opening round of La Liga matches saw the return of two high-profile managers in Manuel Pellegrini and Unai Emery after stints in the Premier League.

Pellegrini — who has managed Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Manchester City — is back with Real Betis. Meanwhile, Emery — who led Sevilla to multiple Europa League successes but flopped at Arsenal — is now the new boss of Villarreal.

Surprisingly, it was Pellegrini’s Betis who got off to a winning start as Cristian Tello’s stoppage-time goal gave Los Verdiblancos all three points against Alaves. Emery’s Villarreal dominated Huesca, but the newly promoted side defied the La Liga 2020 odds and held the Yellow Submarine to a 1-1 draw.

Despite those results, though, Pellegrini still has much more work ahead of him at Betis. Aside from the addition of veteran keeper Claudio Bravo and former Barcelona right-back Martin Montoya, Pellegrini will have more or less the same squad that finished a disappointing 15th last season.

On the other hand, Emery has new midfielders in Francis Coquelin and Dani Parejo from Valencia, as well as exciting young Japanese winger Takefusa Kubo on loan from Real Madrid.

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16-Sep 2020 Wednesday 8:06 PM (10 days ago)            #2
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La Liga: Will Gareth Bale Out This Time?

We are only four days into the start of the new season, and the La Liga recruitment guys and money men are still up to their noses in work. Every head coach wants to be sure he has the best chance of success in the coming campaign and getting the right personnel in is the key.

La Liga 2020 winners Real Madrid have been pursuing a policy of signing young players to loan out in recent seasons, with the notable exception of the capture of Eden Hazard in 2019.

And with young talents Brahim Diaz, Dani Ceballos and Jesus Vallejo gaining experience in Europe’s top leagues the future looks bright for the champions. But does head coach Zinedine Zidane have enough in the current squad to retain the title?

Time will tell, but it is Groundhog Day at the Santiago Bernabeu as unsettled Welsh winger Gareth Bale dominates the news yet again with another expected departure.

Throughout the 2019 transfer window Bale looked set to head for China but the deal fell through at the 11th hour and so Bale stayed put. He only made 16 appearances for Los Blancos in the successful 2019/20 league campaign and was left out of the ZZ’s Champions League squad.

Premier League giants Manchester United have expressed a keen interest, having failed, so far, to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

But recent reports in the UK press suggest Bale’s old club Spurs have jumped to the front of the queue, and his advisors are talking to Tottenham about a potential loan move. It is believed Bale would favour a move the Spurs where he enjoyed a happy six seasons between 2007 and 2013.

And much to the annoyance of Manchester United, the North London club is also in talks with Los Blancos over a move for left-back Sergio Reguilon.

Barca rebuild yet to gather pace

Memphis Depay is reported to join the La Liga club Barcelona

Memphis Depay playing for French club Lyon

Once Leo Messi made his decision to stay at Barcelona, new head coach Ronald Koeman could turn his attention elsewhere. The Dutch master is trying to move striker Luis Suarez on, and the Uruguayan is deciding between nine times Scudetto winners Juventus and La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid for his last big move.

The Blaugrana will look to bring in more firepower once that deal is done, and the rumour of Netherlands striker Memphis Depay coming to the Camp Nou won’t go away. He had a superb season with Lyon, scoring 15 goals in 22 appearances for the Ligue 1 side and reports suggest a 30m Euro deal is edging closer.

Another whisper in Catalonia suggests Barca are still working on a deal to bring Gini Wijnaldum from Liverpool to the Camp Nou, but that one still has some way to go.

Koeman is under quite some pressure to succeed but the early La Liga 2020 betting odds here at SBOTOP suggest that it could be a struggle, with the Blaugrana out at odds of 2.60, while Los Blancos start as strong favourites at 1.65.

Once the early La Liga 2020 results are in, we’ll know just how difficult a task Koeman has, but he needs to get some bodies in.

The same could be said over at the Mestalla where Valencia have been pursuing Watford midfielder Etienne Capoue after the Hornets were relegated from the Premier League.

Head coach Javi Gracia is an admirer of the 32-year-old Frenchman and he has already made an approach to bring him in on loan, but the cash strapped London club are looking to sell Capoue on a permanent deal. He played in 180 Premier League fixtures over five seasons with the Hornets and he would be a good addition at the Mestalla.

Gracia needs reinforcements quickly after young winger Ferran Torres joined Manchester City, and Francis Coquelin, Dani Parejo and Rodrigo Moreno have also packed their bags.

Despite starting the season with a squad ravaged by outgoings and injuries Los Che won the Valencia derby on the opening day of the campaign, beating Levante 4-2, but it’s a long haul and their squad needs depth.

One player who has already switched from England to La Liga is Newcastle United defender Florian Lejeune, who has moved to Alaves on a season-long loan after falling out of favour at St. James’ Park.

The centre-back was a regular starter under Rafa Benitez but has struggled to make an impression since the arrival of Steve Bruce, making just six appearances for the Magpies, who avoided relegation quite comfortably.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 16-Sep-2020 at 8:06 PM


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22-Sep 2020 Tuesday 3:45 PM (4 days ago)            #3
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La Liga: Cadiz Big Winners, Rusty Real Lose Two Points

It was clear who the winners and losers were in La Liga this weekend. Of the seven matches played, only one ended in a draw.

But despite picking up a point away to Real Sociedad, defending champions Real Madrid should be considered losers as their attack — or lack thereof — once again looked concerning.

Meanwhile, newly promoted Cadiz should be considered the biggest winners after they scored a big away win over fellow new boys Huesca.

Read on below as SBOTOP lists down the notable winners and losers in the latest round of La Liga fixtures.

Winner: Cadiz

After waiting 14 years to return to La Liga, Cadiz didn’t have to wait too long to claim their first win of the season as they beat fellow newly-promoted side Huesca 2-0 away.

Veteran striker Alvaro Negredo sent the Yellow Submarine on their way with a poacher’s goal in the 10th minute. It was his first goal in La Liga since 2017.

Survival is clearly the main goal for Cadiz this season and they will need every point they can get. They still have a long way to go to achieve that goal, but this win was a good start.

Loser: Huesca

On the other side, though, Huesca should feel massively disappointed that they lost to a fellow promoted side, at home no less. They were the only home side in La Liga to lose this weekend.

It was a horrible showing by Huesca, who failed to even get a shot on target against Cadiz despite controlling 71 per cent of possession.

If they played so poorly at home against a team that is of comparable ability, it doesn’t bode well for their chances of surviving relegation. They won’t have too many opportunities to pick up all three points this season; this was one of them, and they wasted it.

Winner: Iago Aspas

Iago Aspas just continues to score goals for Celta Vigo. The 33-year-old opened his account for the season with two brilliantly taken goals to lead Celta to a 2-1 win over Valencia. His second goal was an inch-perfect free-kick, which sealed the victory for the home side.

Aspas has been among the most consistent strikers in La Liga since returning to Celta in 2015. He’s scored 91 goals in 167 La Liga appearances over the last six seasons, which is an outstanding return.

Celta just avoided the drop last season, and Aspas will be crucial in their chances of staying up once again this year.

Loser: Real Madrid

Real Madrid began the defence of their La Liga title with a somewhat disappointing goalless draw away to Real Sociedad.

Granted, going to the Anoeta was a tough opening assignment for the champions. But Sociedad were still not quite at full strength after their recent COVID-19 concerns. Moreover, Real completely dominated play; they had 16 shots to La Real’s six but only four were on target.

Despite reclaiming the league last season, Real were far from amazing in attack. They relied too heavily on striker Karim Benzema, who is now 32 years of age, and centre-back Sergio Ramos for their goals.

And after failing to bring in any attackers this summer apart from Martin Odegaard — and finally getting rid of Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez — this draw against Sociedad could be a sign that Real may once again struggle to score.

Winner: Unai Emery and Manuel Pellegrini

Real Betis manager Manuel-Pellegrini enjoys a two-game winning streak in La Liga

Real Betis manager Manuel Pellegrini continues to impress with a two-game winning streak

High-profile managers Unai Emery and Manuel Pellegrini are off to good starts with their new La Liga clubs.

After getting held to a draw at home to Huesca in their opening match, Unai Emery got his first victory in charge of Villarreal after a 2-1 home win over Eibar. Meanwhile, Pellegrini has made it two wins out of two as Real Betis beat Valladolid 2-0 to go joint-top of La Liga after two rounds.

Betis conceded the second-most goals in La Liga last season (60), so it’s promising to see them keep back-to-back clean sheets in their first two games under Pellegrini.

The level of competition is set to jump for both new managers next week as Emery’s Villarreal take on Barcelona while Pellegrini’s Betis host Real Madrid.

But with both teams playing well under their new managers, don’t be too surprised if one or both end up defying the La Liga 2020 betting odds against the Big Two.

Loser: Alaves

While Villarreal and Betis are doing well in their new managers, it’s been quite the opposite for Alaves and Pablo Machin.

Alaves are the first club to lose two games after they fell 2-1 to Granada. Machin has thus far been unable to fix their disastrous run of La Liga 2020 results as they have now lost nine of their last 11 league matches.

Alaves almost got into some big-time relegation trouble because of that dramatic dip in form after the restart. But if Machin can’t turn things around soon, Alaves could be facing serious danger of the drop this time around.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 22-Sep-2020 at 3:45 PM


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