Real Valladolid coach Sergio Gonzalez said after the 1-0 defeat to Barcelona that he thought his team had deserved to walk away with a draw.
“We were very involved the first 30 minutes, we knew how to suffer, be strong and endure situations of danger to grow and surpass us, making good football and looking for a point that finally did not come and maybe we deserved,” he told the club’s website.
Watch his post-match comments below.
The weekend action in Spain has been overshadowed by threats of a player strike over plans to stage matches in the United States, and Pique called on organisers to change their priorities.
“The game was affected by the state of the pitch,” the 31-year-old told BeIN Sports Spain.
“Obviously, La Liga won’t comment on the subject, but if we want to sell our product internationally, it would be good to first look at what’s happening here.
“‘We want to go to the United States, we want to take the players there’… And then, we see a pitch in a deplorable state.
“It’s a shame, a big risk of injury to the players. It’s not suitable for a football game. It is shameful. I hope the officials will sort it out because it was lamentable.”
Lopetegui and company now head to Catalonia and Girona, where they were embarrassed last year amid a backdrop of Spanish political tension, but another quiet win would be well-received.
However, Girona have the capacity to make themselves noisy yet again in what should be a first domestic challenge for the new man in charge at the Bernabeu.
BALL IN LOPETEGUI’S COURT
Lopetegui gives off the impression that he is a patient man, but the constant questions over who starts between the sticks each week will be battering his resolve like a woodpecker.
But there remains no justification for Lopetegui to drop Keylor Navas, despite his ‘inferior’ reputation and Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois’ new pair of golden gloves.
We’ve heard that Courtois needs to acclimatise to the club – though given that he has already spent a fair portion of his career playing in the Spanish capital for Atletico, surely he has an easier adjustment period than most.
Quite simply, given the precise defensive structure that Lopetegui is striving to put in place, to remove a key component he has worked with for the entire summer – unlike Courtois – so hastily would be foolish.
Interestingly, Lopetegui suggested that the Champions League will be a ‘kind of solution’ to the conundrum. Will Navas turn into a ‘cup’ keeper for Real, or is the group stage a chance for Courtois to be eased into a heavier role?
Until then, Lopetegui will have to contend with the same questions. It’s like when an NFL team takes a star college quarterback but insists it’s the incumbent veteran’s job to lose – everyone knows what will happen sooner rather than later.
TAKING THE SHOW ON THE ROAD
Anything less than a routine home victory against Getafe would have set the white handkerchiefs waving at the Bernabeu.
And having navigated that less-than-tricky La Liga opener, Los Blancos’ new-found rigidity will be put to a sturdy test in Girona.
Don’t forget, Girona were the team that beat Real 2-1 at home last October – effectively ending Zinedine Zidane’s title challenge before it had even got going. Then the four goals from Cristiano Ronaldo in the return fixture at the Bernabeu, ending 6-3 to the hosts, glossed over another shaky defensive display.
Indeed, the ethos for Zidane’s teams was shake or be shaken with their rock and roll, direct style of play. Conversely, albeit with a limited sample size, Lopetegui’s modus operandi is all about rhythm.
It is unreasonable to believe that the 78.1 per cent of possession they enjoyed against Getafe, their third highest share in a decade, will be a common occurrence but they have the personnel to assert this kind of dominance.
Lopetegui benched the no-frills Casemiro against Getafe and employed Toni Kroos as the head of the concerto. The slowed tempo led to less dynamism in attack but with Luka Modric set to return to the starting line-up, ahead of Dani Ceballos, it will be intriguing to see how the new mindset shakes out in a tough, hostile game on the road.
NO FEAR FROM GIRONA
Girona are unlikely to cower in the faces of Madrid again this season, despite the change of coach after the gifted Pablo Machin was snapped up by Sevilla over the summer.
Former midfielder Eusebio Sacristan is a disciple of the Camp Nou and stabilised Real Sociedad in the wake of the failed David Moyes experiment three years ago before he, too, was relieved of his duties in March.
The Catalonians like to play with a high line, usually in a 4-3-3 formation and have canny players such as Borja Garcia and Portu – a goalscorer in this fixture last year – and a midfield general in David Timor.
They didn’t have enough to break down Real Valladolid in a stalemate on opening day but striker Cristhian Stuani has managed to be prolific for just about the first time in his career in Girona’s colours.
Due to their partial ownership under City Football Group, Girona have Manchester City youngsters Aleix Garcia and Patrick Roberts at their disposal this season.
But look out for 18-year-old Pedro Porro, an injury stand-in who did remarkably well against Valladolid from right-back – as a natural winger no less. If he can cope with Marco Asensio, Isco et al, another Spanish star could well be born.