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New and Returning Faces take Centre Stage in La Liga


New and Returning Faces take Centre Stage in La Liga

A reduced weekend of La Liga fixtures – and there are still two matches to come tonight – but there was certainly no lack of La Liga 2021 highlights.

Two games originally scheduled for Saturday were postponed to give rest to players returning from international duty with South American nations.

They were the anticipated Sevilla-Barcelona clash, along with Villarreal’s home match against Alavés.

However, there was still plenty to talk about as the 2021/22 season starts to take shape.

Atletico have real resilience

The La Liga champions don’t do tame finishes.

The new campaign may only be in its infancy, but again there was drama involving Atletico Madrid as they consolidated their position at the joint-top of the table.

This time it was Thomas Lemar who netted a dramatic injury-time winner as Atletico came from behind to beat newly promoted Espanyol.

This wasn’t just late though – this was almost into the next week!

Ninety-nine minutes were on the clock when the 25-year-old unleashed a shot that Diego Lopez was unable to keep out.

The newly promoted hosts led from the 40th minute through Raul de Tomas’ looping header.

Yannick Carrasco levelled for Atletico 11 minutes from time with a brilliant solo goal before Lemar’s late intervention.

Antoine Griezmann lasted just under an hour on his return to Los Rojiblancos.

Bilbao outline potential

Reaching successive Copa del Rey finals showed Athletic Bilbao have genuine potential.

The club may have fallen short of expectations in recent years but any side managed by Marcelino can be a surprise and they could well be a dark horse to challenge for a European berth this season.

On saying that, they will need to improve their goalscoring record.

The atmosphere at San Mames always gives them a chance though and two goals in six minutes midway through the second half did the damage and was enough to see off the spirited and newly promoted Mallorca.

Dani Vivian and Inaki Williams netted for the undefeated Basque club with both goals set up by Iker Muniain.

Muniain’s 67th-minute free-kick was headed home by defender Vivian.

The midfielder then helped to put the result beyond doubt after he intercepted a pass near Mallorca’s area and crossed for Williams to tap in.

Two wins and two draws to date represents a decent start for Bilbao.

Benzema at the double and has a star been born?

My favourites for the title at the start of the season – and the favourites with the SBOTOP La Liga 2021 betting odds – Real Madrid are in a familiar position four games into the campaign.

They secured their place at the summit when the prolific Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick as Real twice came from behind to beat Celta Vigo in their first match at the Bernabeu in 560 days.

Benzema scored either side of a Franco Cervi strike after Santi Mina had given the visitors the lead on four minutes.

Vinicius Junior added a third for Real before teenager Eduardo Camavinga scored six minutes into his debut.

Benzema sealed his hat-trick with an 87th-minute goal for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

This summer the speculation was rife but, amid the fanfare, all the high-profile superstar, big-money signings linked with Real failed to materialise. In the end, they went fairly quietly (by their standards) about their business.

After missing out on Kylian Mbappe, they instead went with one for the future. Yet perhaps Eduardo Camavinga is one for the here and now.

Certainly, the Angola-born former refugee made a fine start, coming off the bench to score in this 5-2 victory.

He arrived in France as a two-year-old, settled into the Rennes’ first team at the age of 16 and now, aged just 18, has made an instant impact after a £27 million summer move.

Perhaps Manchester United would have pipped Madrid to his signature had they not been busy securing the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.

In Camavinga, Real seem to have a young midfielder who could be a big name for the best part of the next two decades.

More crucially for now, if they can keep French striker Benzema fit, they remain my tip to win the title under the guidance of the wily Ancelotti.

Against Celta Vigo, who deserved credit for playing their part in an entertaining contest, that was evident.

The Frenchman now has five goals in four matches, putting him ahead of teammate Vinicius and Mikel Oyarzabal of Real Sociedad, who both have four.

He is already the club’s fifth top scorer of all time. Ahead of him stand only Santillana, Alfredo Di Stefano, Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo.

 


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