Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo and Bale Watch in La Liga Week 7
Day 9 of an 11-day stretch of La Liga games—as Weeks 5, 6 and 7 merged into one—brought a comfortable looking trip for Barcelona to Almeria, while Real Madrid's task was much tougher: Beat their unbeaten rivals, Atletico Madrid, at the Bernabeu.
What followed was a low-key weekend for Spain's four superstars.
Neymar's watching brief in Andalusia, following four straight starts in the league, proved as comfortable as Barca's canter to victory.
Gerardo Martino's side won 2-0 to stretch their perfect start to seven games, which equates to La Blaugrana's best ever start—Madrid's stands at nine straight wins if you were wondering.
But despite opening the scoring, Lionel Messi didn't have a comfortable evening.
After breaking the deadlock in the 21st minute, a thigh injury forced him off just before the half-hour mark—Xavi Hernandez replacing him.
He had already made his point, though. Gliding in from the right, he laid the ball off to Pedro Rodriguez on the edge of the area. Barca's No. 7 cushioned a perfect pass back to Messi, and the Argentinian curled a wonderful effort past the helpless Esteban.
That was to prove his only real contribution, though; he took up a position next to Jose Pinto on the Barca bench for the final 60 minutes.
And even without Messi, the manner with which Tata watched his side stroll to victory meant he didn't feel the need to bring Neymar on at all—introducing Xavi, Cristian Tello and Jonathan dos Santos instead.
Later in the Spanish capital, only one of the big names was in Carlo Ancelotti's starting lineup too—Ronaldo beginning the match in a central role alongside Karim Benzema, with Bale on the bench.
It would prove a frustrating night for the Portuguese international.
Largely subdued by the consistently brilliant Atletico back line, the look on his face when the referee didn't award him a free kick after 20 minutes struggled to disappear from then on.
Restricted to long-range efforts and a couple of half-chance headers, he'll possibly look back at a set piece on the hour as his best chance.
Following a gilt-edged opportunity for Diego Costa—who scored what proved to be the only goal of the game—to double Atletico's lead, a Madrid counter-attack resulted in Filipe Luis hauling down Bale on the edge of the area.
Ronaldo's attempt flew into the stands, though, symbolising not just a dour night for him, but for Ancelotti and Madrid too.
Bale, who was introduced with Luka Modric at the break, stretched his legs on a few occasions and once forced Thibaut Courtois to make a save, but the only real positive for the Welshman was coming through 45 minutes uninjured.
Atletico, spearheaded by Costa, held on for their first league win over their neighbours since 1999 and, if he continues like this, we may have to add No. 10 to Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo and Bale watch.
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