Barca re­cover to set pace in La Liga

Cata­lan gi­ants look to ex­tend un­beaten run, while Real miss Ron­aldo

The New Age (Northern Cape) - - SPORT -

BARCELONA have emerged from a cloud of pes­simism to make a per­fect start to their La Liga cam­paign and travel to Getafe to­mor­row look­ing to stretch their ad­van­tage over Real Madrid, whose early op­ti­mism has been damp­ened.

A pall of gloom hung over the Cata­lans in the close sea­son fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Ney­mar to Paris St Ger­main and other fail­ures in the trans­fer mar­ket, lead­ing club mem­bers to sign a pe­ti­tion of no con­fi­dence against the club president. Yet their off the pitch prob­lems have seem­ingly had no ef­fect on their per­for­mances.

Three wins from three has put them top of the ta­ble and with a four­point ad­van­tage over ri­vals Real, who have stum­bled with two draws in their last two games in the ab­sence of the sus­pended Cris­tiano Ron­aldo.

Barca, fresh from Tues­day’s em­phatic 3- 0 Cham­pi­ons League vic­tory over Ju­ven­tus, will have the chance pro­vi­sion­ally to move seven points clear of Real and Atletico Madrid and coach Ernesto Valverde has in­di­cated he will give game time to fringe play­ers.

“Up to now some play­ers have played more than oth­ers but ev­ery­one will get their chance,” Valverde said.

“I picked the best set of lads to get the job done against Juve and I’ll see who I think the best are for Getafe.”

Span­ish and Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Real Madrid be­gan the cam­paign by win­ning the con­ti­nen­tal and Span­ish Su­per Cups to firmly es­tab­lish them­selves as the coun­try’s dom­i­nant force, but their last two league re­sults have brought them down to earth.

They travel to high­fly­ing Real So­ciedad in Sun­day’s late kick off with­out the sus­pended duo of left back Marcelo and Ron­aldo, who serves the fi­nal match of a fiveg­ame do­mes­tic ban for push­ing a ref­eree.

Real, who are also with­out in­jured French striker Karim Ben­zema, are des­per­ately miss­ing Ron­aldo’s goalscor­ing in­stinct.

The Por­tuguese’s im­por­tance was fur­ther il­lus­trated as he scored twice in Wed­nes­day’s 30 Cham­pi­ons League vic­tory over APOEL Ni­cosia.

So­ciedad sit along­side Barcelona at the top with nine points from their first three games and Real coach Zine­dine Zi­dane said his side will need to im­prove this week­end as he looks to com­pen­sate for at­tack­ing ab­sen­tees.

“Ron­aldo is a key player for us, he’s al­ways in it and al­ways scores,” Zi­dane said.

“I hope it’s the last game of the sea­son that we’re with­out him. We’ve not got Cris­tiano nor Ben­zema, but we will have other play­ers and we’ll do well.

“We’ve won two tro­phies in spec­tac­u­lar fashion al­ready and we played well (in the 22 draw) against Va­len­cia.

“Against Le­vante (1-1) we weren’t good and we weren’t against APOEL in the first half ei­ther. Against Real So­ciedad this week­end we need to start in a dif­fer­ent man­ner.” Atletico Madrid will play their first game at their new Wanda Metropoli­tano sta­dium as they host point­less Malaga while Le­vante host Va­len­cia in the Va­len­cian

derby. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: NURPHOTO

STEADY­ING THE SHIP: Barcelona for­ward Lionel Messi.

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