Smiling Messi Puts Barça Back On Track

Lionel Messi endured some testing times with Barcelona last season, but he was back smiling in scoring two against Elche. Tim Stannard gives us his rundown...

Last Updated: 26/08/14 at 09:18 Post Comment

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Stray cats, floodlights failures, headbutts, a referee disallowing out a perfectly good strike from a goalkeeper, tiny teams winning in even tinier grounds, players getting sent off within seconds of coming on, and a smile from Leo Messi. The opening weekend of La Liga swung back into action in with all the usual fine football and completely random nonsense that it consistently delivers.

At least the top flight in Spain had a general idea of when it was going to start and how many teams were going to be participating in the aforementioned competition. The second tier didn't have that kind of fancy luxury with the league running with the proper 22 teams, then 23, then not at all and everyone settling down with the original plan just a few days before the scheduled kick-off with the demotion of Real Murcia for financial imbalances, a crime that pretty much every side in Spain is guilty of.

Despite the eventual promise of a star-studded and particularly Gálactico-looking forward line, Barcelona's first starting line-up of the league season was a little makeshift in attack, with Pedro, Neymar and Luis Suárez all out of what was an easy opening clash against Elche.

The one name not on that list was Lionel Messi, and it was a strangely chirpy-looking Argentinean who scored twice in a 3-0 victory and seemed to have gotten over what must have been a psychological ordeal in the World Cup final rather well. Indeed, Messi even chuckled along as a rather startled black cat ran around the pitch - Barcelona players will need to start enjoying themselves a tad, if ever they are going to get back their former mojo.

Messi's rival Cristiano Ronaldo could only manage the measly single strike in Monday's win against newly-promoted Córdoba, but it settled a few nerves in the final seconds with the score rather delicately wobbling at 1-0. The team managed by former Chelsea defender, Albert Ferrer, put up quite the fight at the Bernabéu, the home fans complaining over the fact that their side was not in double figures by half-time, as the budgets would suggest. Better displays will have to be dug out quickly by Carlo Ancelotti (especially after losing again to Atlético Madrid on Friday in the Spanish Super Cup) if further cries bemoaning the absence of Angel Di María are not to echo around the Bernabéu.

The one benefit to the match against the Rojiblancos is that the epic performance from Atleti left the players rather wooly and unable to break down Rayo Vallecano in a goalless draw. Diego Simeone was left in the stands, where the Atlético coach will have to remain in grounds around Spain until November, serving an eight match suspension for his sending off against Real Madrid and the numerous crimes committed after, which mainly involved his Argentinean potty mouth.

Two of the teams involved in European competitions fared rather badly. Athletic Bilbao, a side that is more than distracted by a two-legged Champions League tussle with Napoli, lost out 1-0 Málaga, although what should have been an equalising effort from Gorka Iraizoz was ruled out in injury time for a non-existent offside.

Real Sociedad also succumbed to the same scoreline but to Eibar, the tiny club from the Basque Country that had to raise over a million Euros in funding just to play in La Primera, adding bits onto the ground like a lego set. Ronaldo et al really will have an amusing expression on their faces as soon as the dressing rooms are breached for the first time.

The new-look sides of Sevilla and Valencia renewed their rivalries in a fun 1-1 draw whilst Celta Vigo showed plenty of dazzling promise to be one of the more thrilling sides to watch this season.

Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter

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