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Transfer Rater: Malcom to Arsenal, Mata to Juve

Football Whispers
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Real Madrid perfect, Barcelona & Atleti net five, Valencia bottom of La Liga

Five quick thoughts from the weekend's action in La Liga as Real Madrid stay perfect, Barcelona hit five and Valencia sink rock bottom of the league.

1. Madrid all in it together

Real Madrid were far from their best at Espanyol on Sunday evening, but James Rodriguez's 25 yard effort and Karim Benzema's finish after a super team move sealed a straightforward 2-0 win which kept Zinedine Zidane's side top of the table with the only 100 percent record in the division.

A 16th straight La Liga victory [including last season] equals the all-time Primera Division record set by Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side in 2010-11, and was secured with Galacticos Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale recovering from minor fitness issues in Madrid.

Even more impressive, for a club with such a focus on individual glory, is that Madrid's last 11 La Liga goals have now been scored by 11 different players: Benzema, James, Luka Modric, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Danilo, Ronaldo, Alvaro Morata, Toni Kroos, Bale and Marco Asensio.

After every game Zidane keeps repeating that he treats all players the same and that hard work is just as important as natural talent. It's starting to look like he really means it.

2. Barca like a toe-to-toe fight

Just like Rayo Vallecano in previous seasons, newly promoted suburban Madrid side Leganes decided to take on Barca man-for-man on Saturday afternoon.

Just like with Paco Jemez's side in the past, it made for an exciting game with thrills at both ends. And, as before, Luis Enrique's side were more than happy to go toe-to-toe and see how things go. The Blaugrana were even outshot -- 15 to 10 -- by the adventurous home side over the 90 minutes.

But by half-time each of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar had finished a sweeping move by knocking the ball into an empty net from close range. Leganes had their opportunities too, but aside from ex-Juventus starlet Gabriel's 20 yard free kick, their approach work and finishing was not of a similar quality as it ended 5-1.

It made for an entertaining afternoon in the sun at a proud Butarque stadium -- but Barca were always going to take the three points.

3. Simeone names attacking side

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has done a lot of things over his long career as a player and coach, but Saturday afternoon saw him name an XI short on defensive cover for possibly the first time ever.

Simeone surprised at home to previously unbeaten Sporting Gijon by naming a very offensive line-up with two strikers, two wingers, and attack-minded Koke and Saul in midfield. The move paid off too, with Atletico 2-0 up inside four minutes, and eventually easing to a 5-0 win with Antoine Griezmann again outstanding.

This all left Colchoneros fans and pundits wondering if the Argentine's change of heart might be permanent. But the odds are still on a quite different approach for their next game at Camp Nou on Wednesday evening.

4. Villarreal buoyant again

Two goals from Italian summer signing Nicola Sansone, one from over 50 yards, were enough to give Villarreal a 2-1 home win over Real Sociedad on Sunday afternoon.

Villarreal began the season in disarray with coach Marcelino being sacked after a falling out with club president Fernando Roig, amid circumstances which have never really been cleared up. Successor Fran Escriba understandably struggled when pitched into a Champions League playoff against Monaco in his first game, and it seemed his side were likely to have it tough in all competitions this year.

But three wins in eight days, across La Liga and the Europa League, suggest Escriba has righted the Yellow Submarine. And they go to the Bernabeu on Wednesday still unbeaten in La Liga with the mood around the club buoyant again.

5. Valencia in big trouble

Things were looking up for Valencia when midfielder Alvaro Medran put them ahead at Athletic Bilbao after just two minutes on Sunday afternoon, but a double from Aritz Aduriz had Athletic 2-1 up by half-time and the Basques should have won by more in the end.

A sorry Valencia remain rock bottom of the table, now the only team with zero points from their first four games. Add in the three straight defeats with which they finished last season, and confidence among players, fans and pundits at Mestalla is close to an all-time low.

Coach Pako Ayestaran looks sure to be the fall-guy sooner or later, so owner Peter Lim and his associates will have to go looking for a fourth manager in less than 12 months. But the problems at Valencia go much, much deeper than who sits on the bench.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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