Neymar, Messi, Bale and Ronaldo Watch
Two established stars, and two hot prospects brought in to support them. The teaming of Neymar with Lionel Messi in Barcelona and Gareth Bale alongside Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo were two of the biggest transfer stories of the entire window.
Both Spanish giants were in action midweek. Barcelona stormed to a convincing victory over Real Sociedad, while Madrid one day later...
But how did our quartet of superstars fare in the sixth round of Liga action? A closer look is needed to see which partnership is firing on all cylinders, and which players may still need a bit of time together to fully gel.
In the long history of Barcelona-inflicted drubbings over the last five years of La Liga, Tuesday's 4-1 win over Real Sociedad will probably not stand out too much in the record books. It was, however, a very special day indeed for Neymar.
After five goalless games, the Brazilian broke his Liga duck with an instinctive poacher's finish to open the scoring. Alexis Sanchez's cross caused horrific confusion amongst the Basque team's defence, which allowed the youngster to steal in and poke the ball into the net, to the obvious delight of his team-mates.
Although the goals are yet to flow for Neymar, his unselfish play (racking up four assists in six Liga games so far) has surprised some observers who had him pegged as a glory-hunter. Those skills were on display minutes later, when a teasing centre met Lionel Messi's head to double the lead. Impressive stuff from the former Santos wonderkid.
Barcelona fans enjoyed a rare treat on Tuesday evening. It is not particularly unusual to see Lionel Messi notch a goal or two in front of the Camp Nou faithful; but efforts converted with his head are somewhat more of an unusual occurrence.
The Argentine found himself in the right place at the right time, lurking near the far post to dive on to Neymar's cross which had eluded Alexis Sanchez in the middle. It was another sign of how the South American pair have instantly formed a fluid partnership, working instinctively together in an association that is already bearing fruits.
Messi was not at his virtuoso best midweek, even missing a couple of chances that usually would be guaranteed goals. He still conducted the Barca attack from the middle, however, and always imparts a class into proceedings that makes the Catalans so dangerous.
Once again Ronaldo showed himself to be indispensable to Madrid's efforts. If not for the Portuguese goal machine's precision in front of the posts, the Merengue may have already started to lose pace with leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at this early stage of the season.
A lacklustre performance against enthusiastic Elche was rescued when No. 7. Cristiano went down rather too easily to win a free-kick just outside the hosts' area, but there was no argument about a low free-kick that squeezed through the wall and into the net.
When all seemed lost, some six minutes into injury time following an Elche equaliser, up stepped Ronaldo again to fire home a penalty, giving his team an agonising, controversial three points.
It was far from vintage Ronaldo, who seemed at times disconnected and frustrated with his faltering teammates. What mattered was the win, however, and in the nick of time, it was the forward who stepped up to make the difference.
Once more, Gareth Bale was absent from Madrid's plans against Elche. The Welsh wizard suffered a leg injury, as confirmed by FoxSports, prior to Sunday's clash with Getafe and not only missed his expected home debut, but Wednesday's clash as well.
Bale made a scoring Liga debut for the Merengue, but has so far managed just two appearances in the famous white shirt since completing a blockbuster transfer from Tottenham Hotspur.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!