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A peculiar start to La Liga

With Barcelona and Real Madrid winning every La Liga title since Rafa Benítez’s Valencia won in the 2003-2004 season, critics have long suggested that the league has become all too predictable.

With Barcelona two points clear at the top of the table after only three games, it would appear that little has been done to dissipate those claims.

However, there is a pervasive feeling in Spain that not all is going to plan. There are some things are not just quite right.

Worst start in their history for Madrid 

First of all, Madrid are in 9th place and off to the worst start in their illustrious history, with just four points out of possible nine.

“I cannot say we did not want to win the game, or that a particular player had a bad attitude, but I want more. I am not happy. We must have more intensity and work more," Mourinho said after the 3-0 victory against Granada, their first win of the season.

So far, Los Blancos appear a far cry from the team that has so often overpowered teams at will in recent times.

It is as if they are still in first gear, just going through the motions.

There is much more to come, that much is obvious, but they are taking their time.

Despite the team’s early struggles in the league, it was back to business last Wednesday, with victory over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Madrid’s high octane, counter attacking game returned at its finest in the 2nd leg, leaving the visibly shaken Catalans reeling during the first half.

However, Madrid inexplicably ran out of steam and a superb Lionel Messi free-kick, allowed the 10 men of Barca back into the tie.

Truth being told, despite having chances to score themselves, they were fortunate in the end to hang on. The 2-1 victory seeing them win their first Super Cup title in four years on the away goals rule.

Ronaldo drops a bombshell 

Seemingly, all was well again. That was until Cristiano Ronaldo dropped a bombshell.

After defeating Granada 3-0 at home the Portuguese forward, who bagged a brace declared to journalists that he was not happy and the club knew why.

This, as expected, sent the rumour mill into overdrive.

Then, to make matters worse for Madrid, Spanish radio station Cadena SER broke a story that Ronaldo had a meeting with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez during which he requested a transfer.

However, earlier today Ronaldo pledged his commitment to the club via his Twitter account. "I am accused of wanting more money, but one day it will be shown that this is not the case,”

Ronaldo continued. "At this point, I just want to guarantee to the Real Madrid fans that my motivation, dedication, commitment and desire to win all competitions will not be affected.”

As the situation continues to be clouded in doubt, once thing is for sure, these are tense times in the white half of the Spanish capital.

Barcelona lacking fluidity 

Elsewhere Tito Vilanova became the first Barcelona manager since Louis van Gaal to start the La Liga season with three successive wins.

Following their Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid, they recovered by narrowly defeating Valencia 1-0 at the Nou Camp. However, their performance left a lot to be desired.

In fact, had Victor Ruiz buried a golden opportunity in the closing stages, Valencia would have been worthy recipients of a point.

Like much of their game against Osasuna and the first half of El Classico, Barca lacked fluidity and were disjointed throughout.

The Nou Camp faithful also witnessed a rare event, Messi had a poor game.

Misplacing numerous passes and dispossessed more often than not, he was kept quiet by the Valencia rearguard.

Seemingly disinterested and tired, an image of him panting for breath, after a customary mazy run late in the game summed up his night.

Failing to add to his goal tally, the Argentinean still leads the charts with four goals, but his performances like that of Ronaldo’s have been sub-standard, well, by their high standards that is.

Falcao makes a stunning start 

The same can’t be said about La Liga and Europe’s newest superstar, Atletico Madrid’s striker Radomel Falcao, who has hit the ground running.

He scored a stunning hat-trick as Atletico defeated Chelsea 4-1 in the European Super Cup, their second success in Monaco in the last three years.

The 26-year-old has a legitimate claim to be the best pure striker in the game today.

With the instinct of a natural goalscorer, an aerial ability which is second to none, and the capability of scoring from just about anywhere with both feet, he is everything that any manager would look for in a number nine.

After scoring 36 goals last season, the Colombian is on course to surpass that number already, scoring two hat-tricks last week.  The other came in a league match against Athletic Bilbao.

However, some Rojiblanco fans are concerned with his explosion into the limelight, and with good reason.

Over the years with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Fernando Torres departing, the Atletico fans will be wondering just how long they can hang onto their prized asset.

The player has insisted that he is happy in Madrid, so for now, he is staying put.

Promising future for Rayo Vallecano 

Many fans of neighbours Rayo Vallecano are also predicting a promising future on the horizon.

Currently in 4th place, the much unheralded club, who took La Liga by storm in the late 90s and early part of the last decade are threatening to repeat history.

And, while the likes of Michel and Kasey Keller are long gone, Paco Jemez’s men are the surprise of the early season, this despite losing star player Michu to Swansea City.

Playing an attractive, attacking brand of football, they are unbeaten from their first three matches and have seven points from a possible nine.

Meanwhile in the Balearic Islands, second place Real Mallorca followed up a victory against Real Sociedad by pulling off one of the signings of the summer in Mexican international Giovani dos Santos.

Also with seven points is Malaga, who seems intent to prove that last season’s 4th place finish was no fluke.

Forced to sell several key players including Santi Cazorla and Jose Rondon in order to settle debts, the Andalusian club was the busiest team on the final day of the transfer window, bringing in Javier Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz, Oguchi Onyewu and Manuel Iturra.

Valencia's tough start 

They can look forward to Champions League football until Christmas too, after overcoming Greek club Panathinaikos to secure a place in the group stages.

They will represent Spain alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia.

It has also been a tough start for fans at the Mestalla, as Valencia find themselves with two points and without a win after three games.

Surrendering a two goal lead at home against newly promoted Deportivo La Coruna last week was a shock but they had to travel to both Madrid and Barcelona in their first three matches.

With three weeks gone, it’s still very much early days in La Liga, but with the likes of Rayo Vallecano, Deportivo, Real Valladolid and Real Mallorca all impressing and bigger clubs such as Espanyol, Osasuna and Valencia struggling, maybe just maybe this season’s outcome may not be that predictable after all.

By Joshua Seemungal

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