Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

Barcelona’s Ansu Fati in action during the match against Villarreal in which he scored two goals in the 4-0 victory. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 September 2020

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

  • Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona

MADRID: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will all be hoping to build on their first wins of the season as La Liga heads into its fourth round of games this week.

Here are the five talking points ahead of the midweek fixtures.

For the first time in a long time, Barcelona can enjoy some calm after a 4-0 win over Villarreal in their first match of the season on Sunday.

Lionel Messi scored on his first competitive appearance since attempting to leave in the summer but most exciting was the performance of the 17-year-old Ansu Fati, who scored twice and won a penalty.

Ronald Koeman must decide how to make the most of the teenager, whose maturity on the pitch belies his age and whose body might not be ready to start every week.

But Fati's pace, movement and decision-making are all so impressive it will be difficult to leave him out, as Barca look to build on that win at Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 formation during his team's 3-2 win at Real Betis on Saturday as Luka Jovic was deployed up front alongside Karim Benzema.

But the Serbian striker failed to take his chance, instead enduring another underwhelming night before going off with 18 minutes to go.

It remains to be seen whether Zidane persists with Jovic at home to Real Valladolid on Wednesday, or at all, given Madrid could yet decide to let their €60 million (today $70 million) signing leave before the end of the transfer window.

When Eden Hazard regains fitness, that spot next to Benzema will belong to the Belgian so Jovic's window of opportunity may be small. Time would appear to be running out.

Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona.

So hitting six against Granada on Sunday offered some early encouragement that this season's Atletico, boosted by the arrival of Luis Suarez in attack, can put those scoring problems behind them.

Suarez stole the show after scoring twice on his debut but Joao Felix was arguably the biggest plus for Diego Simeone, who will hope the 20-year-old's excellent display is the start of a more consistent campaign.

Atletico go up against newly promoted Huesca on Wednesday, the kind of game they slipped up in too often last season.

Even defeat by Real Madrid could not knock Real Betis off the top of the table, as Manuel Pellegrini's team enjoy the benefits of a strong start and more games played than the traditional powerhouses three weeks into the season.

But there is cause for optimism longer-term as Betis began with wins against Alaves and Real Valladolid, before matching Madrid for prolonged spells until their opponents pulled away in the second half.

With the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and Joaquin, this Betis squad has not lacked for attacking talent but solidity at the back has too often been an afterthought.

Villarreal face Alaves on Wednesday, with pressure already on both coaches. Villarreal have four points from their opening three games but a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday, as well as a draw at home to newly-promoted Huesca means Unai Emery could do with a victory.

Alaves, meanwhile, are second bottom after managing just a point from their first three games, with Pablo Machin seeking a first win at la Ceramica.

Valencia have also made a stuttering start, a draw at home to Huesca on Saturday coming on the back of a surprise loss away at Celta Vigo.

New coach Javi Gracia has already expressed disappointment with the club's summer transfer dealings, meaning credit with the board may be lacking if results do not improve.


Coman strikes again as Bayern open title defense by routing Atletico

Updated 22 October 2020

Coman strikes again as Bayern open title defense by routing Atletico

  • The defeat was the joint heaviest Atletico has suffered under Diego Simeone

MUNICH, Germany: Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman picked up where he left off last season with two goals in a 4-0 home rout of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday as the holders got the defense of their Champions League campaign off to a winning start.
Coman, whose header settled last season’s Champions League final against Paris Saint-Germain just 59 days ago in Lisbon, scored Bayern’s opening goal, created their second and claimed their fourth behind closed doors at the Allianz Arena.
“We played very well, I am very happy with my two goals,” Coman told Sky Sports.
“The winning goal in last season’s final is a good motivator, but it’s in the past now and we have fresh goals this season.”
Coman saved his best for last with a superb effort, turning the Atletico defense inside out before firing home on 72 minutes.
Goals by midfielders Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso, who produced an unstoppable long-range strike from outside the box, added to Atletico’s misery in Munich.
The defeat was the joint heaviest Atletico has suffered under Diego Simeone, rivalling the 4-0 drubbing dished out at Dortmund almost exactly two years ago.
“I am very pleased with the win, especially in defense, and we were rewarded for our hard work,” said head coach Hansi Flick after Bayern’s 12th straight win in Europe dating back to their 2018/19 last 16 defeat to Liverpool.
There were nervous moments in the build-up before UEFA confirmed the game could go ahead after Bayern winger Serge Gnabry tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday.
The rest of the Munich squad tested negative in Wednesday morning’s round of testing, but Goretzka later admitted Gnabry’s positive test was a “shock.”
Both sides had clear early chances as Luis Suarez just failed to connect with a low cross from Atletico left back Renan Lodi, while at the other end Bayern center-back Niklas Suele hit the post.
Suarez again fired wide just before Bayern took the lead.
Joshua Kimmich, who celebrated the birth of his second child the night before, won the ball, then turned and put a superb pass into the box which found Coman who fired past Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak on 29 minutes.
Coman then turned provider when the France winger darted into the area, spotted Goretzka free and the central midfielder beat Oblak to make it 2-0 at the break.
Atletico appeared to have pulled a goal back early in the second half when Joao Felix tapped home, but the VAR spotted Suarez offside in the build up.
Tolisso grabbed Bayern’s third just after the hour mark when he blasted home a thunderous strike after Kimmich’s effort had been charged down.
Coman capped a fine individual display when he twisted and turned his way past marker Felipe before deftly firing home on 77 minutes.
The 24-year-old was almost immediately substituted after helping establish a four-goal cushion with back-to-back away group games at Moscow and Salzburg in the coming weeks.