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
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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