A tired and lackluster Atlético Madrid scraped past Rayo Vallecano 1-0 last night with a performance that was far from convincing. Perhaps the best moment for those present in the Wanda Metropolitano was after the game when they paraded the Uefa Super Cup won against Real Madrid almost two weeks ago. That lifted the spirits of the crowd after a disappointing game which really did not give them much to cheer about, aside from the 63rd minute goal by Antoine Griezmann, who still looks out of shape after the World Cup.
Once Griezmann came off, Atlético were on the back foot against a Rayo Vallecano side that looked very different from the one thrashed by Seville last week. Atlético have added some quality players this summer, but that has not encouraged Simeone to build a more creative team. It seems like he’s happy to stick with more of the same: take few risks, score and hang on. He must be careful with that strategy.
From the Metropolitano we headed to Valladolid, who hosted Barcelona. If a LaLiga game is going to be played in Miami, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to have chosen this one, to allow time for the recently resurfaced pitch to set at the Estadio José Zorrilla. Playing on such an atrocious surface, which lifted at every turn, was dangerous. I still remember Maxi Rodriguez picking up a serious injury (which kept him out for months) on a similar surface, during the inauguration game played between Spain and Argentina at the Estadio Nueva Condomina in the City of Murcia back in 2006.
Fortunately, nothing like that happened yesterday. Barça won thanks to a solitary goal by Dembélé, who managed to play well on the surface that more resembled a “beach”, according to coach Ernesto Valverde. After a disappointing first season last season, Dembélé is finally becoming a star. Valladolid will now wait to see if they will be fined for negligence by LaLiga. If that happens, they deserve it.
Tonight it's Madrid’s turn in Girona, where it looks like Courtois will make his first appearance -- or at least it seems that way from rumours started by Courtois himself. Maybe he should have thought of showing more discretion when he posted “Ready for tomorrow’s match” on his Instagram page. Lopetegui did not mention anything about it in his press conference, but did clarify the situation regarding Vinicius, who plays with Castilla today. What remains pending for fans is the Mbappé situation. After an incredible display for PSG yesterday, he truly is the man of the moment.