Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale (L) vies with Levante’s defender Ivan Lopez during the Spanish Liga football match Real Madrid vs Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on September 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU
Barcelona opened up a four-point gap on title rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid with a 5-0 thrashing of local rivals, whilst the sides from the capital were held by Levante and Valencia respectively.
Here, AFP looks at five things we learned from the La Liga weekend:
Madrid miss Morata
Facing an early Saturday kick-off after an international break, Real boss Zinedine Zidane utilised his side’s strength in depth that played such a huge part in delivering a La Liga and Champions League double last season.
Despite the continued absence of Cristiano Ronaldo through suspension, Gareth Bale, Isco and Luka Modric were just three of those left out of Zidane’s starting line-up for the visit of Levante.
However, one key difference between Madrid’s squad this season and last is the lack of back-up to Karim Benzema since Alvaro Morata’s £70 million ($91 million, 78 million euros) switch to Chelsea.
Morata was never properly replaced in the transfer window, and after Benzema limped off injured in the first half, Real lacked firepower as they toiled in the search for a winner with Bale forced to deputise as an auxiliary striker.
Sociedad a Real threat
Things could get even worse for Real with a trip to high-flying Real Sociedad next weekend.
Sociedad joined Barca at the top of the table as the only sides with three wins from three by scoring twice early and late to beat Deportivo la Coruna 4-2 on Sunday.
Without the injured Benzema and suspended Ronaldo and Marcelo, another slip-up would leave Madrid with serious ground to make up just four games into the campaign.
Barca paper over off-field cracks
Lionel Messi was once again Barca’s inspiration with a hat-trick as Espanyol were swept aside at the Camp Nou.
However, even after Luis Suarez completed the rout in stoppage time from debutant Ousmane Dembele’s cross, cries for under-fire Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to resign rang around the Camp Nou.
Outside the stadium supporters queued before and after the game to sign a vote of no confidence motion in Bartomeu put forward by former presidential candidate Agusti Benedito.
Having lost Neymar and the confidence of the fanbase, only the sight of Messi and captain Andres Iniesta signing new contracts as promised by Bartomeu will ease calls for his head.
Athletic Bilbao moved into the top four by inflicting Girona’s first ever top-flight defeat at San Mames.
Aritz Aduriz was again on the scoresheet as Spanish football’s own Benjamin Button continues to only get better with age.
The 36-year-old striker already has five goals in seven games this season as he looks set for another prolific campaign.
Berizzo’s Sevilla promise
Spain’s fourth Champions League representatives were overshadowed by Real’s struggles, Barca’s brilliance and Atletico’s intense 0-0 draw at Valencia on Saturday.
However, another new-look Sevilla are only two points off the top after a 3-0 dismantling of Eibar that could have been far more.
As almost every year, there has been a huge turnover in playing personnel at the Sanchez Pizjuan and another change of coach with Eduardo Berizzo charged with recreating his success and style of football from three years at Celta Vigo.
The early signs are promising as Berizzo seems to have rejuvenated Paulo Henrique Ganso and Manchester City rejects Jesus Navas and Nolito.
However, the challenge of Liverpool and Anfield on a big European night on Wednesday will test the limits of what Berizzo’s Sevilla are capable of.