Atletico face uphill climb
MADRID — Barcelona and Real Madrid made it two wins from two, but both were thoroughly tested and trail surprise early leaders Las Palmas, whilst Atletico Madrid’s title hopes continue to disintegrate already.
Atletico’s title challenge over? Writing off Diego Simeone’s men after just two games may seem harsh, but in a league where 90 points have been needed to win the title for the past six seasons, back-to-back draws to open the campaign leaves Atletico already facing a mountain to climb.
Moreover, those four dropped points have come against newly-promoted Alaves and Leganes leaving star forward Antoine Griezmann to conclude: “If we keep playing like this we will be fighting relegation.”
Having held onto Griezmann and enjoyed a summer without selling one of their best players for the first time in the Simeone era, the Champions League finalists were expected to pose a serious challenge to Barca and Real for the title.
However, a familiar problem of breaking down, in theory, weaker opposition has blighted Atletico’s prospects with Kevin Gameiro‘s penalty at home to Alaves last weekend the only goal they have scored in 180 minutes.
After such a slow start, targeting a first ever Champions League win and consolidating their status as Spanish football’s third force seems more realistic.
Barca’s unpredictable Stopping Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar has been an almost impossible task as Barca have won back-to-back Liga and Copa
del Rey doubles. However, with Neymar still absent after winning Olympic gold with Brazil and Messi and Suarez rarely off-form, Barca still picked up a vital 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao thanks to Ivan Rakitic’s winner.
Rakitic and Denis Suarez constantly looked to run beyond Luis Suarez behind the Athletic defence adding an extra dimension to Barca’s already lethal attack. Moreover, the Croatian’s goal was a bullet header at the end of a flowing counter-attack.
With such variety, Barca may be even harder to stop with the likes of Neymar and Andres Iniesta still to feature in La Liga this season.
Real still need Ronaldo after all Gareth Bale’s sensational form in 2016, including a double as Madrid routed Real Sociedad 3-0 last weekend, suggested the European champions’ dependence on Cristiano Ronaldo was easing.
However, with the Portuguese still sidelined by the injury that forced him off in the Euro 2016 final, a disjointed Real struggled for long periods before Toni Kroos’s late winner sealed a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo.
Bale in particular looked jaded by his long summer with Wales at the Euros and the searing Madrid heat on Saturday night in the kind of game in which Ronaldo so often comes to Real’s rescue.
Boateng having a party in Las Palmas Forget Madrid and Barca, Las Palmas are the early-season entertainers as they thrashed Granada 5-1 to go top of the table.
Kevin-prince Boateng’s move to the Canary Islands was one of the more eye-catching La Liga transfers over the summer and the Gha- naian has so far lived up to the hype with a second stunning goal in as many games before limping off to a standing ovation.
Boateng also took time to pay homage to the nearly 300 victims of an earthquake in central Italy this week having spent three years at AC Milan.
Valencia crisis deepens It seemed impossible for things to get any worse for Valencia after a three-coach season in which they flirted with relegation. Yet, they could end up in another battle to survive after taking zero points from their opening two games.
A 1-0 defeat at Eibar followed a 4-2 humbling by Las Palmas at home last Monday and more bad news is set to come with the imminent sale of captain Paco Alcacer to Barcelona.
A squad that finished 12th last season has already been decimated by the departures of Andre Gomes, Shkodran Mustafi, Alvaro Negredo and Sofiane Feghouli. — AFP CAPE TOWN — South African league champions Mamelodi Sundowns were drawn against Chippa United, while Bidvest Wits will face newcomers Cape Town City in the semifinals of the MTN8.
The draw took place after the Sundowns and Supersport United match at Loftus Stadium on Sunday, where the Brazilians ran out 3-1 victors.
The semifinals, which take place over two legs, are scheduled for the weekends of September 10 and 17 with the teams playing home and away.
Wits, who will host the first leg, reached the last four after defeating Orlando Pirates 2-1 on Saturday, while City edged Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 on Friday.
Sundowns’ opponents Chippa dispatched Platinum Stars 2-0 in their quarterfinal match on Saturday afternoon.
The Chilli Boys will welcome the Brazilians in the first clash.
The MTN8 trophy remains the only trophy that coach Pitso Mosimane (pictured) is yet to win with Sundowns. — Sport24
Barca still picked up a vital 1-0 win at athletic Bilbao thanks to Ivan rakitic’s winner.