Spain may have been given a rather short straw in Netherlands and Chile in their World Cup draw, but that shouldn't give them cause for concern. The pressure is on the rest...
Those of us who support lowly clubs can find it difficult to imagine the fuss made over two defeats suffered by a goliath. Will this weekend's Copa offer some respite?
The funny thing about records that last for years is that they are very, very, very hard to beat. Real Madrid's run of nine successive league wins at the start of the season in the 1968/69 campaign was a tally that was coming close to being overcome by not one but two rampaging Primera clubs in 2013. That was until this weekend's results stuffed things up completely.
In that particular series of matches from the late 60s, Miguel Muñoz's dispatched the likes of Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia but were eventually undone in a goalless draw against the less-than-mighty Pontevedra, a charming but damp coastal club in Galicia.
That should have been a warning of what was in store for Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, the two teams with a chance of equalling that run after both had won eight matches from eight. Whilst Atlético Madrid's away clash against an Espanyol team that can be obstinate old goats under Javier Aguirre when required was going to be a toughie, Barcelona should have been able to overcome a rugged but extremely limited Osasuna up in Spain's north-east.
But the side from Pamplona have always been a bit of an Achilles heel for Barcelona in the past with the Navarre outfit having taken points off Barça on eight occasions in the previous 13 fixtures. When Osasuna put the hive mind to it, the team can last-ditch defend until the cows come home. It is scoring up the other end that has been the problem for the team in recent years.
Against Barcelona, any such attacking notions were cast aside as the home team dug in and waited for the attacks from the Catalan club. Although the visitors were a little sluggish with Leo Messi on the bench - but Carles Puyol returning to the starting line-up - enough chances were created for Barça to win the game. It's just that they were all missed, with Cesc Fabregas being the major culprit.
Despite the tendency in La Liga to draw a huge amount of conclusions from a single result, Josep Maria Casanovas writing in 'Sport', was right in soothing that 'it will all be different against Madrid. From the line-up to the attitude. On Saturday, they relaxed and two points were stolen'. Barcelona's failure to score for the first time in 63 league games was partly down to the fact that records lasting 35 years have been around that long for a reason and partly down to it being just one of those days.
Those nicked points saw Barça pull up one short of equalling Real Madrid's record. However, Atlético Madrid were still in with a shout of causing their city neighbours to sweat a bit, but didn't quite have the juice to overcome Espanyol in Cornella. The eventual 1-0 defeat left Barcelona alone at the top of the table and Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone bemoaning the fact that any chance of a thre- horse race was well and truly over. "I'm one of those that says La Liga is boring," sniffed the Argentinean boss. "It's a reality."
Meanwhile, Real Madrid did their duty by kicking off what Marca called 'A New League' by beating Málaga 2-0 in a much-improved performance that also saw 20 minutes for Gareth Bale. The biggest contribution from the former Spurs man was to lose his balance under a challenge in the Málaga box to win a late penalty for Cristiano Ronaldo to convert, all achieved with the Welshman's hair still looking as impeccably groomed as a Spitfire pilot.
Barcelona dropping points and Madrid's victory saw the capital city side closing the gap to the top of the table to three points. Handily, Carlo Ancelotti's side have a chance of narrowing that to zero in the first Clásico of the season next weekend.
Beforehand, the Camp Nou encounter would have been a match where La Liga could have conceivably been won or lost. However, Barcelona's slip-up against Osasuna when both the opposition and history were working against them, now makes the Clásico feel like the end of the first chapter of La Liga rather than the entire book.
Round 9 Results
Real Madrid 2-0 Málaga
Valencia 0-2 Real Sociedad
Osasuna 0-0 Barcelona
Espanyol 1-0 Atlético Madrid
Almería 0-1 Rayo Vallecano
Granada 0-2 Getafe
Betis 1-2 Elche
Valladolid 2-2 Sevilla
Celta Vigo vs. Levante (Monday)
Athletic Bilbao vs. Villarreal (Monday)
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter