A LOOK AT LA LIGA
The first week of the Champions League has been like the first hour of a house party when all of the different personalities mark their entrance in a vastly different manner.
Real Madrid are concocting a cocktail of what's left from previous celebrations; Barcelona are bashful in the quiet corner of the room; Valencia were first on the dance floor releasing energy after a mighty fall out; and Atletico Madrid came crashing in making an awful lot of noise.
Zinedine Zidane and his players are often the last ones dancing when it comes to the final hours of the top European get-together but reaching this year's final seems to be a distant dream
The fact that the previously unwanted Gareth Bale was Real Madrid's most eye-catching player, and James Rodríguez is back in the fold, sums up the situation. Zidane's team has gone stale.
Too many players have stuck around beyond their sell-by date. Karim Benzema is still running himself into the ground, Toni Kroos tries to direct the midfield and Casemiro continues to chase around but their best days are behind them. The harsh truth is that there were better players who could have been signed by Real in the summer. The team needed an upgrade.
The skill of top management is replenishing Barça just as it peaks. Ernesto Valverde may receive criticism from certain sections of Barcelona supporters, mainly for merely not being Pep Guardiola, but he is overseeing a quiet revolution.
In the scoreless draw with Borussia Dortmund we saw the future of the Catalan club. On the field were Frenkie de Jong, Arthur, Ansu Fati and Antoine Griezmann whilst with Lionel Messi, Ivan Rakitic and Sergi Roberto were on the bench. Ok, they needed the goalkeeping of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to ensure the scoreless draw but at least they have laid the foundations.
The biggest party poopers were Valencia who arrived at Stamford Bridge in a strop and departed dancing in the streets of London. The players refused to speak to the media before the game, as they were still sore about the sacking of their manager Marcelino, but post game they were delighted to recall how they had beaten Chelsea.
Atlético de Madrid couldn't have been more Atleti. Two goals down against Juventus, they got ugly and scored two typically gutsy goals buoyed by their supporters. The important last ditch equaliser was scored by Héctor Herrera who was recently signed on a free transfer from Porto. It is football's equivalent of making the party punch with ingredients from Bargain Booze.
We know that it isn't how a shindig starts but how it finishes.
It looks like Real Madrid may not last the pace unless they invest in some vintage, Barcelona need to get their moves together, who knows what mood Valencia will take and Atlético will still be jumping come the closing stages, having upset a few people along the way.