Spanish clubs relieved to resume La Liga after CL turmoil

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Antoine Griezmann jeered. Sergi Roberto booed. Sevilla thankful it drew with a team from Austria.

Spanish teams used to look forward to the end of summer and the return of the Champions League.

Not this time.

Of five Spanish teams, Real Madrid was the only one that could manage a win from the opening batch of games in Europe’s elite competition.

And even Madrid will be relieved to get back to the Spanish league on Sunday when it visits Valencia with both tied on points atop the table with Atlético Madrid.

Valencia has exceeded expectations under new coach José Bordalás and a breakout season by Carlos Soler. The midfielder leads Valencia with three goals and has scored twice for Spain in World Cup qualification in recent weeks.

But Carlo Ancelotti will be expecting his Madrid to offer more in Mestalla Stadium than just another gritty defensive performance that kept it alive against Inter Milan before Rodrygo could snatch a 1-0 victory with an 89th-minute goal on Wednesday.

Rodrgyo’s was only the second shot Madrid steered toward Inter’s goal in the entire match. It took Dani Carvajal almost an hour to get its first strike on target.

Until then, Madrid was on pace to reproduce the embarrassment by Barcelona that was too much for some of its fans to bear.

Overwhelmed 3-0 by Bayern Munich, Barcelona was unable to muster a single shot on goal in the entire match on Tuesday.

The crowd, back at Camp Nou for its first European match since the start of the pandemic, took out its frustration on Roberto. The homegrown player who instantly became a hero for his last-gasp winner in Barcelona’s memorable 6-1 rout of Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, was booed when he was substituted after being completely outplayed by Bayern’s Alphonso Davies.

Coach Ronald Koeman and club president Joan Laporta have asked for their fans to be patient, but the pressure will be immense on the team to respond with a convincing victory when the winless Granada visits on Monday.

Atlético’s talented attack was stymied by Porto in a scoreless stalemate on Wednesday, when Antoine Griezmann weathered an unpleasant welcome at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

The France forward was booed both before kickoff and when he came on as a second-half substitute. Many Atlético fans are still angry that he left the team for Barcelona two years ago, only to come back on loan at the end of this summer’s transfer market when Barcelona needed to shed his wages.

But an attack that can also field Luis Suárez, João Félix, Ángel Correa and Yannick Carrasco could still not find a way to break down Porto, which was deprived of victory only by a video review that spotted a handball that annulled a late would-be goal.

“We have recovered an extraordinary player. We hope that he can get back to his best and respond to the people who are criticizing him,” coach Diego Simeone said about Griezmann. “He is facing a big challenge.”

Griezmann will get another chance to win back the hearts of Atlético’s faithful on Saturday against the unbeaten Athletic Bilbao.

When Sevilla visits Real Sociedad on Sunday, it will hope to avoid the amateurish mistakes that cost it a 1-1 draw with Salzburg.

Sevilla committed three penalties, all from rash tackles, in the first half on Tuesday. Sevilla ended up considering the point a good result after striker Youssef En-Nesyri was sent off shortly after halftime with a second booking for simulating a foul in the box.

Villarreal likewise drew with Atalanta 2-2 and remained winless in five matches across all competitions in this campaign. Last season’s Europa League winner will try to break its bad run when it travels to Mallorca on Sunday.

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